Nazanin’s case: Urgent appeal sent to the UN expert on torture

REDRESS files submission on behalf of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe as new hopes for her release are dashed and conditions worsen for a number of dual nationals in Iran

REDRESS has called on the United Nations expert on torture to urgently intervene in the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, highlighting in a submission sent on 13 February 2018 that the exceptionally harsh treatment inflicted upon her and resulting harm suffered strongly suggest that she has been subjected to torture.

The submission details for the first time the different forms of ill-treatment that Nazanin has suffered at the hands of the Iranian authorities since her arrest in April 2016. They include being held in solitary confinement for eight and half months and suffering inhumane conditions of detention such as being confined to cells measuring just 1.5 x 2 square meters with no windows, natural air or light. The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture has previously considered that solitary confinement amounts to torture or ill-treatment if lasting more than 15 days.

Particular emphasis is given in the submission to the “maximum psychological pressure” that the Iranian authorities have exerted on Nazanin with the purpose “to demoralise her and put her in a situation of complete powerlessness.”

Throughout her detention, Iranian authorities have repeatedly threatened Nazanin that they would send her daughter Gabriella – who is staying with her grandparents in Iran and currently visits her mother twice a week – back to the United Kingdom, and that she would not see her daughter again.

They have also repeatedly made failed promises to release her, most recently when her family was told at the beginning of 2018 that Nazanin would likely be granted temporary release in time for Iranian Independence Day on 11 February 2018. On 3 February 2018, Nazanin and her family were also told that her case had been closed by the Judiciary and that her full release was now in the hands of the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Both promises for release remain unfulfilled.

REDRESS stresses the “extremely severe impact” that the abuse has had on Nazanin given the length of her detention, her vulnerability in prison abroad and away from her family in the United Kingdom, and her forced separation from her three-year old daughter, who was only 21 months old when her mother was arrested and was still being breastfed.

Nazanin has suffered from blackouts, panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder, difficulty walking and moving her arms and hands, and suicidal tendencies. She continues to report darkly negative feelings, uncontrollable bouts of anger and sometimes feeling numb, unable to join in laughter or conversation. She struggles to be in company and to put on any weight, after having suffered severe weight loss during her detention.

The submission states that Nazanin’s treatment “is based on discrimination against her for being a British citizen”, and aims to achieve several purposes, such as forcing her into a confession and coercing the British government into negotiating a deal for her release. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) has previously found that Nazanin was targeted as part of a pattern involving the unlawful arrest and detention of dual nationals in Iran.

The call for an urgent intervention from the UN expert on torture comes at a moment when there has been a deterioration in the situation of a number of dual nationals in Iran, among them Canadian-Iranian professor Kavous Seyed Emami, who died in prison on 9 February 2018, after being in detention for 17 days, and 81-year-old US-Iranian citizen Baquer Namazi, who was brought back in prison on 6 February 2018, less than two weeks after he had been granted temporary leave because of potentially fatal heart problems.

REDRESS urges the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture to request information from Iran on Nazanin’s treatment; to request Iran to cease any torture and ill-treatment immediately and to investigate the allegations with a view to prosecute those responsible. REDRESS also requests the UN expert to inquire into this matter with the Government of the United Kingdom to ensure that it is taking any necessary steps to fulfil its obligations to protect British citizens from torture and ill-treatment.

“Unless urgent action is taken now the appalling treatment that Nazanin has suffered at the hands of Iranian authorities is likely to continue, with the devastating consequences that we have already seen on her physical and mental health,” said Rupert Skilbeck, Director of REDRESS. “The serious allegations of torture and ill-treatment in this case demand a closer and urgent examination from the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture.”

For more information about the case, including our submission, please see here

Please also see our new report  Beyond Discretion: the protection of British nationals abroad and a backgrounder on her case.

To request an interview or more information, please contact Eva Sanchis, Head of Communications of REDRESS, on +44 (0)2077931777; +44 (0)7857110076 or eva@redress.org

Background information

The Office of the Special Rapporteur on Torture has been part of previous interventions by the UN Special Procedures in Nazanin’s case. On 1 July 2016 the Special Rapporteur on Torture at that time, Professor Méndez, along with several other UN Special Rapporteurs, submitted a joint Communication to the Government of Iran highlighting their serious concerns about her arrest and detention.

Subsequently, 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 Special Rapporteur on Torture and other UN Special Rapporteurs sent a further Communication to the Government of Iran, expressing again their serious concerns about her situation.

This urgent appeal is submitted in follow-up to those earlier interventions. It focuses in more detail on the severe treatment to which the Iranian authorities have subjected, and continue to subject, Nazanin during her detention, along with its purpose.

The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture can transmit urgent appeals to States with regard to individuals reported to be at risk of torture, as well as communications on past alleged cases of torture; undertake fact-finding country visits; and submit annual reports to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly. The Special Rapporteur may decide to approach other UN mechanisms and country rapporteurs with a view to sending joint communications or seeking joint missions.

Photo credit: Free Nazanin Campaign.