Foreign Affairs Committee Challenges Government to Improve Response to State Hostage Taking Following Release of Nazanin Zaghari- Ratcliffe
Today, the UK Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) published its highly anticipated report, ‘Stolen years: combatting state hostage diplomacy’.
The FAC opened its Inquiry into State Hostage Taking after the release of British nationals Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori from Iran in March 2022, following the UK’s payment of an outstanding £400 million debt to Iran.
REDRESS submitted evidence to the Inquiry, in collaboration with the Ratcliffe family, as well as counsel John Dugard KC, Alison Macdonald KC, and Dr Tatyana Eatwell. REDRESS has acted as legal representatives for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her husband Richard Ratcliffe since 2016.
The FAC report finds that the government must learn from its failures in responding to state hostage taking and calls for a “zero tolerance approach” to the practice.
It makes strong recommendations for the UK government to address and challenge the increasing problem of state hostage taking. Many of these recommendations build on proposals in REDRESS’ submission.
Key recommendations to the UK government include:
- Using the strongest possible language to call out situations of state hostage taking as soon as it becomes clear that they are hostage cases.
- Establishing the position of Director for Arbitrary and Complex Detentions (DACD), with a direct line to the Prime Minister, to coordinate cases.
- Establishing clear criteria and a system for quickly identifying cases to be referred to the DACD.
- Drawing up clear guidelines on situations where diplomatic protection could be considered and how it might be employed.
- Providing an annual report to the FAC on the progress of cases of arbitrary detention abroad.
- Outlining the legal measures the government is prepared to take domestically and internationally against countries that engage in state hostage taking, including Magnitsky-style sanctions.
- Working with international partners through the Declaration on Arbitrary Detention in State-to-State Relations.
Richard Ratcliffe, husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, said:
I think it is really helpful that Parliament is shining a spotlight on government’s failure to deal with state hostage taking, including its failure to describe it honestly.
There are lots of useful recommendations, but for me now one of the most important things is accountability. Unless there is a cost for hostage takers, and an end to the government’s policy of suppressing these cases, we will see more and more rogue states using innocent British citizens as chess pieces, and many more years of people’s lives wasted by prevarication and denial.
Rupert Skilbeck, Director of REDRESS, said:
We welcome this report which recognises the urgent need for the government to address state hostage taking and protect British nationals abroad. The government must now take action on these recommendations so that other British citizens can receive better support than Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her husband Richard Ratcliffe received.
At a minimum, the government must hold perpetrators accountable by imposing targeted human rights (Magnitsky) sanctions on those responsible, establish the position of Director for Arbitrary and Complex Detentions to ensure hostage cases are handled more effectively, and make clear commitments with international partners under the Declaration on Arbitrary Detention in State-to-State Relations.
More information on the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe can be found on the REDRESS website.
For more information or to request an interview, please contact Leanna Burnard, Legal Advisor at REDRESS, at [email protected].
Photo credit: Free Nazanin Campaign