Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe Released: Cause for Celebration and Reflection

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a victim of torture and hostage-taking in Iran for nearly six years, has been allowed to leave Iran and will be returning home to her family in the UK today. REDRESS, which has campaigned for her release since 2016, celebrates the end of a horrific six-year ordeal that started when she was detained at Tehran airport on 3 April 2016 after visiting family with her then one-year-old daughter.

Nazanin was tried and convicted twice during this time in Iran of unfounded charges, and despite being innocent, she was kept in arbitrary detention, separated from her husband and daughter in the UK. She spent four years in prison, including more than eight months in solitary confinement, and a year under house arrest with an ankle tag.

While the road to recovery will undoubtedly be long, REDRESS hopes that once reunited and safe with her family in the UK, she will finally be able to start that journey. A medico-legal report commissioned by REDRESS last year found that if Nazanin is able to return to the UK and receives appropriate care close to her family “in a non-threatening environment”, “her prognosis is good, as she appears resilient, hard-working, and determined to heal”.

We congratulate the UK government on negotiating her release. In celebrating her release, however, we must not forget the deep and continuing injustice perpetrated by Iran. Iran’s system of unlawful detention and torture of foreign nationals for diplomatic leverage cannot be allowed to continue. Six years is a devastatingly long time for a family to be separated, and it is deeply concerning that it has taken so long for the UK government to secure Nazanin’s release.

We call on the UK government to learn lessons from this case and reassess its policies, in particular on consular protection of its citizens tortured or at risk of torture abroad and on state hostage-taking. Iran’s systematic hostage-taking of innocent foreign nationals for diplomatic leverage must not be allowed to continue.

Rupert Skilbeck, Director at REDRESS said:

“We are incredibly relieved that Nazanin will finally be reunited with her family in the UK after a horrific six-year ordeal. Nazanin has endured unimaginable suffering. Richard fought day and night for his wife to be allowed to return to the UK and REDRESS is honoured to have supported them in securing Nazanin’s freedom.”

“Nazanin’s detention in Iran was always illegal and her treatment by Iran amounted to torture. In celebrating her release, we must not forget the deep and continuing injustice perpetrated by Iran. Iran’s systematic practice of holding foreign nationals hostage for diplomatic leverage cannot be allowed to continue.”

Notes to editors:

REDRESS has campaigned for Nazanin’s release since 2016.

In March 2021, REDRESS provided evidence to the UK Foreign Office of Nazanin’s severe physical and psychological suffering due to Iran’s treatment, confirming that she had been subject to torture. On 2 March 2021, former Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab acknowledged publicly for the first time that her treatment by Iranian officials amounted to torture.

REDRESS also raised Nazanin’s case with United Nations experts, including with the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD), which in 2016 ruled that her detention was arbitrary and ordered her release.

In 2019 REDRESS successfully advocated for the UK government to grant Nazanin diplomatic protection, an exceptional step that formally escalated the matter to an inter-state dispute between the UK and Iran. It was the first time it had done so in more than a century.

More recently, REDRESS requested the UK Foreign Secretary to impose targeted sanctions on individuals responsible for the human rights abuses of Nazanin and other foreign hostages detained in Iran.

REDRESS’s work on Nazanin’s case was carried out in collaboration with Dr Tatyana Eatwell, Alison Macdonald QC, Prof John Dugard SC, and Tayyiba Bajwa.

For more information, please see here.