Nazanin photo

Improving the UK Government’s Approach to Protecting British Nationals Detained in Iran

Today, REDRESS has submitted evidence to the UK Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee relating to Iran’s practice of unlawfully detaining dual and foreign nationals.

The Foreign Affairs Committee is currently carrying out an inquiry into the UK’s relationship with Iran. The inquiry will explore the nature of the engagement between the UK and Iran and how successful it has been in achieving the UK’s foreign-policy objectives

There has been an increasing trend in recent years of foreign and dual nationals being unlawfully detained in Iran. According to the UN Special Rapporteur on Iran, there are approximately 30 known cases of foreign or dual nationals detained in Iran since 2015, and there are likely to be others whose families have chosen not to make the detentions public.

REDRESS has been acting on behalf of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian mother and charity worker who has been unlawfully imprisoned in Iran for over four years. Nazanin was arrested on 3 April 2016 by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards while on holiday visiting family. Following a secret and unfair trial, she was imprisoned on unspecified charges.

The submission proposes a number of recommendations for improving the UK government’s approach to protecting British nationals detained in Iran. In particular, REDRESS recommends that:

  • The UK should exercise diplomatic protection on behalf of British nationals unlawfully detained in Iran, and do so through a series of diplomatic and legal steps that escalate in severity over time as necessary. Diplomatic protection is a formal state-to-state process under international law which allows a State to take a number of diplomatic and legal steps to ensure the protection of its nationals abroad. Last year, REDRESS successfully persuaded the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office to grant Nazanin diplomatic protection, the first time the UK has ever done so in a human rights case.
  • UK law should be amended to introduce a right to consular assistance for all British nationals, including dual nationals. Consular assistance can help prevent human rights violations, including torture or other ill-treatment, and provides a crucial – and sometimes the only – link between the detained person and the outside world.
  • The Iranian government has on several occasions indicated that Nazanin’s detention is linked to the ongoing dispute between Iran and the UK over an outstanding payment of £400m by International Military Services to Iran. The UK should immediately discharge the outstanding IMS Debt through payment in kind of humanitarian supplies to Iran or through issuing a licence to make payment to the Central Bank of Iran.
  • The UK should impose travel bans and asset freezes on the individuals in Iran responsible for the unlawful detention and mistreatment of dual and foreign nationals. Human rights sanctions (often referred to as “Global Magnitsky sanctions”) allow states to impose targeted sanctions on individuals who have committed serious human rights violations and can be a powerful tool for the protection of dual and foreign nationals detained abroad.
  • The UK should collaborate with other states to devise a coordinated strategy for addressing Iran’s unlawful detention of foreign and dual nationals, including sponsoring an Arria Formula meeting at the UN Security Council. A coordinated approach is needed as, at the moment, states are taking their own individual approaches, which fail to acknowledge the systematic nature of the problem.