Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe granted diplomatic protection by the UK government
The UK Foreign Secretary has today granted diplomatic protection to British-Iranian mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. The decision follows longstanding appeals from REDRESS and Nazanin’s family that the UK formally recognise her imprisonment and mistreatment by Iran as breaches of international law.
The decision comes as Iran continues to deny crucial medical treatment to Nazanin. Given the seriousness of her situation the exercise of diplomatic protection is a logical next step in the UK’s strategy for seeking her release.
Diplomatic protection is a mechanism by which a State may secure protection and obtain reparation for a legally wrongful act committed against one of its nationals. It is based on the principle that an injury to a national is an injury to the State itself. In Nazanin’s case, it means that the UK acknowledges that she has been subjected to grave violations of her fundamental rights by Iran and that this is, in legal terms, an injury to the UK itself.
REDRESS has been urging the UK government to grant diplomatic protection to Nazanin since November 2017. A legal opinion prepared by senior counsel that REDRESS sent to the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office explained that the UK Government was entitled to exercise diplomatic protection under international law. It noted that Nazanin’s personal history, employment, financial and other ties to the UK made clear that her predominant nationality is British.
Rupert Skilbeck, Director of REDRESS, said: “While it is sad that it has come to this, we welcome the UK’s decision to grant diplomatic protection to Nazanin. We have been asking for a long time that the UK formally recognise her imprisonment and mistreatment as violations of her human rights under international law. This decision is hugely significant for Nazanin and gives her hope for the future, now that her case has been formally taken up by the UK government.”
UN experts have found that Nazanin’s detention is unlawful and have repeatedly called on Iran to release her.
REDRESS has highlighted that the exceptionally harsh treatment inflicted upon Nazanin and resulting harm during her detention may amount to torture. This includes being intermittently denied medical treatment, spending eight and a half months in solitary confinement and being held in inhumane conditions, in cells without windows, natural air or light and measuring around 1.5m by 2m in size.
Nazanin’s health has severely declined since her arrest in April 2016. She continues to be refused treatment to check lumps in her breasts, neurological care for her neck pains and numbness in her arms and legs, and access to an outside psychiatrist.
For more information or for an interview, please contact Eva Sanchis, REDRESS’ Head of Communications, on 020 7793 1777 or 07857110076 (out of hours) and [email protected].
NOTES TO EDITORS
- About REDRESS
REDRESS is an international human rights organisation that represents victims of torture to obtain justice and reparation. REDRESS also uses the law to combat impunity for governments and individuals who perpetrate it, and to develop and promote compliance with international standards.
- About diplomatic protection
Diplomatic protection is a well-established principle of international law by which a State may secure reparation for injury to one of its nationals, premised on the principle that an injury to a national is an injury to the State itself.
Diplomatic protection is not the same as granting diplomatic immunity, which is a form of legal immunity ensuring diplomats are given safe passage as codified in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. For more information on diplomatic protection please see REDRESS’s separate briefing on diplomatic protection.
- About the case
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a charity worker with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, has been arbitrarily detained in Iran since she was arrested on the 3 April 2016 while returning to the UK from visiting family in Iran with her baby daughter Gabriella. She is serving a five-year jail sentence in Tehran’s Evin Prison after being convicted in an unfair trial by a Revolutionary Court on unspecified charges relating to national security. She has now been separated for over 1000 days from her daughter Gabriella and husband Richard Ratcliffe.
- United Nations special procedures’ involvement in Nazanin case
REDRESS brought Nazanin’s case before the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in June 2016.
On 1 July 2016 the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran along with several other UN Special Rapporteurs, submitted a joint Communication to the Government of Iran highlighting their serious concerns about Nazanin’s arrest and detention.
Subsequently, following REDRESS submission, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) issued an Opinion on Nazanin’s case on 7 September 2016, finding that her detention was arbitrary, and referring the case to the Special Rapporteur on Torture for further investigation.
On 6 October 2016 the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran and other UN Special Rapporteurs sent a further Communication to the Government of Iran, expressing again their serious concerns about her situation.
On 14 February 2018, REDRESS sent an urgent appeal to the UN Special Rapporteur on torture in follow-up to those earlier interventions and where it highlighted that the exceptionally harsh treatment inflicted upon her and resulting harm may amount to torture. This treatment included spending eight and a half months in solitary confinement and being held in inhumane conditions, in cells without windows, natural air or light and measuring around 1.5m by 2m in size.
On 16 January 2019 six UN human rights experts called publicly on Iran to urgently provide Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and fellow prisoner Narges Mohammadi access to adequate medical care, and reiterated calls for their release.