Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

UK Government Fails to Learn From Past Mistakes in Addressing State Hostage-Taking

REDRESS is deeply disappointed with the UK government’s decision not to accept key recommendations put forward by the UK Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) to improve the way in which it handles state hostage-taking cases. 

Last year, REDRESS submitted evidence to the Committee’s enquiry into this matter and called on the UK government to review and change its approach and policies when dealing with cases of hostage-taking, given the ineffectiveness witnessed in the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was held hostage by Iran for nearly six years. 

The Committee’s subsequent inquiry report, Stolen Years, echoed two key recommendations made by REDRESS to the inquiry: the need to establish a special envoy to oversee cases where UK nationals are detained for diplomatic leverage (as already exists in the US) and the need for better parliamentary scrutiny of consular cases.  

The UK government’s response, made public today by the Committee, however, rejects both recommendations. It also fails to acknowledge the impact that the high turnover of ministers and officials since 2015 has had on the resolution of such cases, and the lack of involvement of families of hostages in discussions on the best approach for such cases. 

REDRESS had also recommended that the UK government take a more robust and proactive approach to State hostage-taking, to challenge this practice and better protect the UK’s citizens abroad, by ‘calling out’ State hostage-taking for what it is; imposing Magnitsky sanctions in coordination with allies to hold perpetrators accountable; and by being more robust in providing consular assistance. 

Chris Esdaile, Legal Advisor at REDRESS, said:

“The UK government’s response to Nazanin’s case was weak and reactive. It failed to protect her and other British citizens from abuse. This approach sets a worrying precedent. Whilst these shortcomings could and should have been addressed by the government in response to the Foreign Affairs Committee’s report, the government chose not to do so. We again urge the government to reconsider how it handles the cases of hostages being taken for diplomatic leverage.”