Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe must be immediately released and provided with medical care, UN human rights experts tell Iran

Six high-level UN human rights experts have called today on Iran to urgently provide Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe and fellow prisoner Narges Mohammadi access to adequate medical care, and reiterated calls for their release, as they reach the third day of their hunger strike.

In a public statement, the UN experts urge the Government of Iran “to immediately and unconditionally” provide Nazanin and Narges with access to appropriate medical treatment “in light of their serious health concerns.”

They also note for the first time that their treatment may amount to torture, agreeing with previous findings by REDRESS in Nazanin’s case: “The Iranian authorities must urgently address the violations that are the basis of their hunger strike protest, including denial of appropriate treatment and care, which may well amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, or even torture.”

The UN experts recall that the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found, in separate opinions, that the two women had been arbitrarily detained. Nazanin and Narges have been detained since April 2016 and May 2015 respectively.

Earlier this week, REDRESS reiterated its calls on the UK government to place Nazanin under diplomatic protection, a mechanism under international law in which a State may secure protection and obtain reparation for a legally wrongful act committed against one of its nationals.

Nazanin’s health has severely declined since her arrest and imprisonment in 2016. In recent weeks, Iranian authorities have restricted calls to her family, reduced food rations and have exerted further psychological pressure on her with the release of a new propaganda film last week following her announcement that she would begin her hunger strike.

Last year, REDRESS urged the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture to intervene in her case, highlighting that the exceptionally harsh treatment inflicted upon her and resulting harm may amount to torture. While in prison, she has suffered from blackouts, panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder, difficulty moving her arms and hands, and suicidal thoughts.

The UN experts stated that the situation of Nazanin and Narges is emblematic of numerous reports received related to the denial of appropriate treatment and care of imprisoned individuals in Iran. UN experts have previously notified the Government of Iran about their concerns.

“Once again UN experts have ruled that Nazanin’s detention is arbitrary and have sent a strong and unequivocal message to Iran regarding the appalling treatment that Nazanin has suffered, which they now say may amount to torture,” said Rupert Skilbeck, Director of REDRESS. “The Iranian authorities must urgently address the ongoing violations of Nazanin’s rights and allow her to return home to her family as soon as possible.”

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:

  1. 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 torture, and to develop and promote compliance with international standards.
  2. The statement from the UN human rights experts from 16 January 2019 is available here. The UN experts who signed the statement are Dainius Pῡras, Special Rapporteur on the right to health; Diego García-Sayán, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers; Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; Seong-Phil Hong, Chair-Rapporteur, Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders and Javaid Rehman, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
  3. 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 a 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 the Islamic Republic of 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 detailed the severe treatment inflicted upon Nazanin during her detention in Iran, and that REDRESS argued may amount to torture.
  4. Diplomatic protection is a mechanism 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. It is a well-established principle of international law and has been used in a number of cases around the world. In Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case, it would mean the UK acknowledging 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. The UK could then take a number of different steps, including formally requesting a private consular meeting with Nazanin; lodging an official protest with Iran; issuing a diplomatic summons to the Iranian Ambassador to the UK; and requesting the immediate commencement of formal negotiations. In November 2017, REDRESS urged the UK government to grant diplomatic protection to Nazanin. Read more here.
  5. Nazanin, a British-Iranian mother on whose case REDRESS has worked since 2016, turned 40 behind bars in Iran over Christmas. She has now been separated for over 1,000 days from her 4-year-old daughter Gabriella and her husband Richard.
  6. Iranian State TV broadcast last Tuesday 8 January 2019 new propaganda accusing her of being a British spy alongside previously unseen footage of her arrest at Tehran airport. In the footage Nazanin looks terrified as she is prevented from boarding a plane home to London after holidaying in the country.
  7. On 30 December 2018 Nazanin announced in a public letter her intention to start a hunger strike in protest against being refused medical 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.