UK Government must demand that Iran releases all British nationals arbitrarily detained

The UK Government must abandon its half-hearted approach to Iran and insist on the release of all British nationals arbitrary held there, including mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and grandfather Kamal Foroughi.

The UK Government is facing increasing pressure to act as members of Parliament discuss the situation of British prisoners in Iran during a Westminster Hall debate today at 4.30pm. The debate comes as the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has identified an emerging pattern involving the arrests of dual nationals in Iran.

Those detained included charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and businessman Kamal Foroughi whose families have received support from REDRESS.

Kamal Foroughi is a 77-year-old British-Iranian grandfather, who has been detained in Evin prison for more than six years. He was convicted of “espionage” in an unfair trial in which no evidence has been provided in justification. His wife, children and grandchildren all live in London. He has not received a visitor in more than 2,000 days. He is at risk of blindness due to untreated cataracts and may be suffering from prostate cancer. He has been eligible for early release every day since January 2014.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a 38-year-old British-Iranian mother, who is also being held in Evin prison after she was arrested in April 2016 when at the Tehran airport as she was about to return to the United Kingdom from a family holiday with her young daughter. Following an unfair trial conducted in secret, Nazanin was sentenced to five years imprisonment for unspecified national security crimes. She spent seven months in solitary confinement. Her physical and mental health has severely deteriorated in prison. She is currently in a state of despair and is experiencing depressive episodes.

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has found both of their detentions to be arbitrary, in violation of international law, and has called for their immediate release. Six United Nations Special Rapporteurs have also called for their release, referring to their unfair secret trials as “a mockery of justice”. The European Union has also asked for Kamal Foroughi’s release.

In March 2017, 261 MPs and Peers signed a letter seeking the release of Nazanin, Kamal and a third British nationals, Roya Nobakht. In April 2017, 49 MEPs signed a letter addressed to Iran’s Head of Judiciary, Minister of Justice and the Head of Iran’s Council for human rights expressing concerns for Nazanin’s health and called on them to intervene to bring all dual nationals home immediately.

The UK Government does not currently have consular access to either Nazanin or Kamal. Although the Government has stated that it is seeking Kamal’s release on humanitarian grounds, it has yet to publicly call for Nazanin’s release.

“The UK Government’s current approach is not working. It is time for it to step up its approach and stand up for its citizens. Both its actions and words must make clear that the arbitrary detention and ill-treatment of British nationals will not be tolerated,” said Carla Ferstman, Director of REDRESS.

REDRESS is calling on the UK to:

  • Publicly call on Iran to immediately release all UK nationals arbitrarily detained in Iran, and allow them to be reunited with their families in the UK.
  • Insist on immediate consular access to all dual nationals detained or imprisoned in Iran.
  • Insist and ensure that Nazanin and Kamal receive the specialised medical care they need.
  • Arrange for the Foreign Secretary to meet with the families of all its nationals currently arbitrarily detained abroad.
  • Consider bringing their cases before the International Court of Justice.
  • Work with allies to bring the strongest possible pressure on Iran to cease its pattern of arbitrary detention of dual nationals.

For more information or for an interview, please contact Eva Sanchis, Head of Communications, on 020 7793 1777 or [email protected]

About REDRESS: We are an international human rights organisation which seeks justice and reparation for survivors of torture and related international crimes.