Richard and Nazanin Ratcliffe with their daughter Gabriella.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

Nazanin is a British-Iranian charity worker who has been arbitrarily detained in Iran since she was arrested on the 3 April 2016. She remains in prison on unspecified charges, separated from her  daughter and her husband who live in the UK.


Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is a British-Iranian dual national who lives in London with her husband Richard and their baby daughter Gabriella.

On 3 April 2016, Nazanin was returning from visiting family in Iran with then 22-month-old daughter Gabriella, when she was arrested at the airport by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) on 3 April 2016. No reason was given for her arrest.

Following her arrest, Nazanin was taken to an unspecified detention centre in Tehran, before being transported one thousand kilometres away to an unspecified detention centre Kerman a week later. In June 2016 she was transferred to Evin prison in Tehran, where she is currently being held. She is currently allowed to see her daughter during weekly visits to the prison.

Iranian authorities then held Nazanin in solitary confinement for 45 consecutive days, where she was not allowed to contact her husband and had only limited and tightly controlled communications with her family. She was not given access to legal counsel nor medical treatment, and the lights in her cell remained permanently switched on. As a result, Nazanin experienced great difficulty walking, weight loss, and her hair began to fall out.

Following a secret and unfair trial in August 2016, Nazanin was sentenced to five years in prison on unspecified charges relating to national security. She was only given access to her lawyer the day before the court session, who was later given just five minutes to defend her. This was repeated in the appeals process, and in April 2017, Iran’s Supreme Court upheld the conviction marking the end of the legal process.

In total, Nazanin has spent eight and a half months in solitary confinement. She has been held in inhumane conditions, in cells without windows, natural air or light and measuring around 1.5m by 2m in size. Iranian authorities have placed significant psychological pressure on Nazanin regarding her long separation from her daughter Gabriella. For example, Iranian guards have threatened to send her daughter back to the United Kingdom, have taunted Nazanin by playing with her daughter in front of her and have interacted with their own children in front of her and other women prisoners.

Her treatment has had an extremely severe impact on Nazanin’s mental and physical health, which has caused at times, among other things, her inability to walk and use her arms and hands, severe weight and hair loss, blackouts, panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder, advanced depression and suicidal tendencies.

In October 2017, Nazanin was informed of three fresh charges and that she could face an additional 16 years in prison. The charges were apparently linked to her charity work in the UK. Her family were required to pay bail money to prevent her from being returned to solitary confinement. On 23 November, Iranian authorities further informed her that she would appear in court on 10 December on a charge of “spreading propaganda.” The court date was later postponed in the wake of the UK Foreign Secretary’s visit to the country, although Nazanin never received formal notification. On 3 February, the Iranian judiciary informed Nazanin that the case was closed.

The UK Government has confirmed that it has supported her release on humanitarian grounds and stated that it raises concerns at the highest levels.

Iran does not recognise dual citizenship and has refused British consular access as a result. Under the Vienna Convention for Consular Relations (VCCR), to which Iran is a signatory, the UK is entitled to engage in matters concerning its nationals overseas. The UK Government has confirmed that it has supported her release on humanitarian grounds and stated that it raises concerns at the highest levels.

In November 2017, the UK Government stated that it was considering placing Nazanin under diplomatic protection, a means for a State to take legal or related action against another State in respect of an injury caused to one of its nationals.


REDRESS filed a complaint to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) on 17 June 2016. In the petition we argue that Nazanin’s detention without charge, separation from her two-year-old daughter, and time spent in solitary confinement is in breach of Articles 7, 9, 10, 14 and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and constitutes arbitrary detention.

REDRESS went on to submit additional information to the WGAD updating them on Nazanin’s condition in August 2016 and January 2017. In April 2017, REDRESS filed an implementation submission informing them that no progress has been made regarding her recommended release, more than 1 year after Nazanin’s arrest.

In October 2017, REDRESS released a legal opinion by leading counsel that found that Nazanin has been “subjected to a series of grave violations of her fundamental rights” and that she was being targeted as a British citizen and dual national.

In November 2017, REDRESS released a second legal opinion by leading counsel that found that “the only effective means under international law by which the grave harm suffered by Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe may be repaired lies in the UK’s right to exercise diplomatic protection.”

In February 2018, REDRESS submitted an urgent appeal to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture calling for his immediate intervention in the case to request Iran to stop any torture or ill-treatment, provide an independent medical examination and any medical treatment deemed necessary.


On 7 September 2016, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention published its findings in response to our complaint. They found that Nazanin’s arrest and detention was arbitrary, and she was denied the right to a fair trial, and called for her immediate release. The WGAD also found that Nazanin was targeted due to her dual citizenship.

The WGAD found that the arrest and detention of Nazanin breached articles 9, 10 and 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and articles 9, 10 and 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

The UN body expressed its grave concern for Nazanin’s health, and the health problems she is suffering from as a result of time spent in solitary confinement and separation from her daughter.

On 7 October 2016, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran Ahmed Shaheed called for Nazanin’s immediate release. His appeal was endorsed by five UN rapporteurs, including the Special Rapporteur on torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment. Following news of the fresh charges in October 2017, UN rights experts reiterated calls for her immediate release.

On 7 March 2019 the UK government granted Nazanin diplomatic protection, following the legal opinion submitted by REDRESS.

  • Case name: Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe
  • Jurisdiction: UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention | UN Special Rapporteur on Torture
  • Date filed: 17 June 2016
  • Current status: Decision reached | Implementation pending
  • Legal representation: REDRESS


The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1948, which sets out the fundamental human rights which must be universally protected.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) is a treaty adopted by the UN General Assembly on 16 December 1966, committing signatories to respect the civil and political rights of individuals

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD), mandated by the UN, is a body composed of independent experts in the field of human rights. The Working Group’s mission is to investigate cases of arbitrary deprivation of liberty, and to take action relating to those cases when necessary.

The Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR) is a treaty adopted in 1963 that defines a framework for consular relations between states. It sets out the right of a state to intervene in matters concerning its nationals overseas.

Diplomatic protection is a formal State-to-State process employed by the State of nationality when a national suffers injury as a result of an internationally wrongful act committed by another State. It is a procedure intended to secure protection of a national, and to obtain reparation for the wrongful act committed. It may be achieved by way of either “diplomatic action” or “international judicial proceedings”.


Photo by Free Nazanin Campaign.