UK Government Must Recognise Nazanin as a Victim of Torture as New Medical Evidence Confirms the Severity of her Ill-treatment in Iran

REDRESS has urged the UK government to publicly recognise Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe as a victim of torture, as new medical evidence of her physical and psychological state confirms the severity of the ill-treatment that she has suffered in Iran. 

REDRESS has sent to the UK Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, an independent medico-legal evaluation that we commissioned from the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT), one of the world’s leading experts on the investigation and documentation of torture and ill-treatment. 

The 77-page medico-legal report concludes that the physical and psychological findings are “highly consistent” with Nazanin’s allegations of torture and ill-treatment during her detention in Iran over the last five years.  

A comprehensive independent physical and psychological evaluation of Nazanin was conducted by two doctors who are who are recognised forensic specialists over three days in October 2020, and they finalised the report in February 2021.  

Nazanin suffers from serious and chronic post-traumatic stress disorder, major depression and obsessivecompulsive disorder due to her treatment in prison and under house arrest, and the continuing legal uncertainty and separation from her family. In addition, she experiences ongoing physical pain and impairment in her neck, right shoulder, and arm, which arose as a result of her treatment and the denial of medical care.  

The experts conclude that Nazanin “is in urgent need of psychiatric pharmacological and psychotherapeutic support, as well as evaluation and treatment of her physical symptoms”, and that her healing “can be only provided in the UK in the presence of her family after reunification” given that “in order to recover, she needs to be in a safe and non-threatening environment.” 

The report also concludes that without reunification with her family in the UK and effective treatment, Nazanin’s conditions will become chronic and potentially deteriorate, and her psychological symptoms and disorders “will be unable to resolve themselves and will become chronic and potentially worsen.” 

The experts also note that psychological and physical conditions that she experienced while in prison have persisted while Nazanin has been living with her parents in Iran, “where the continuing uncertainty of her fate creates a sense of permanent threat leading to constant pain and suffering.” 

Despite completing her five-year sentence on 7 March 2021, and her ankle tag being removed, Nazanin has been summoned to court on 14 March 2021, where she could face a second case. 

Rupert Skilbeck, Director of REDRESS, said: 

“REDRESS has long held that Nazanin’s treatment by Iran amounts to torture. Based on this new evidence, the UK government should publicly acknowledge that Nazanin is a victim of torture in Iran, and do everything in its power to protect her from further harm.”

“Despite the efforts that have been made by the FCDO, the UK government’s policy has ultimately failed to protect Nazanin from torture. Five years later, Nazanin is still unable to leave Iran, living in a constant state of fear and uncertainty, which causes ongoing suffering. The UK government must examine why its current policy towards such cases has failed to protect her from torture.”

“While the FCDO has expressed that it has no obligation to protect British nationals abroad, even where they have been subjected to torture, it is our view that governments have a positive obligation under international law to respond when their citizens have been subjected to torture, given the nature of the absolute prohibition against torture”.

“The UK government’s policy has ultimately failed to protect Nazanin from torture. We are asking the UK government to urgently review the FCDO policy towards British citizens detained abroad, and to move beyond a policy of discretion to provide them with a legally enforceable right to consular protection, as the family of Nazanin and other prisoners have long requested.”

Notes to editors: 

  1. The medico-legal report was sent to the Foreign Secretary on 11.03.2021.
  2. REDRESS has acted as legal representative for Nazanin and her husband Richard Ratcliffe since 2016, representing them before the UN and the FCDO. 
  3. Nazanin is a British-Iranian charity worker who has been arbitrarily detained in Iran and separated from her husband and daughter for five years. During this time, she has spent more than eight months in solitary confinement and has been denied urgent medical treatment. 
  4. REDRESS has campaigned for Nazanin’s release since 2016. Following a submission by REDRESS, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found in 2016 that her detention was arbitrary and requested Iran to release her. 
  5. Six United Nations Special Rapporteurs have previously stated that Nazanin’s treatment may amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or torture, as prohibited under Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. REDRESS considers that Iran’s treatment of Nazanin constitutes torture under Article 1 of the UN Convention Against Torture.
  6. In March 2019, following advocacy by REDRESS, the UK Government took the exceptional step of escalating the matter to an inter-state dispute with Iran, through granting Nazanin diplomatic protection. 
  7. REDRESS’s work on Nazanin’s case is carried out in collaboration with Prof John Dugard SC, Alison Macdonald QC and Dr Tatyana Eatwell. 

 Photo credit: Free Nazanin Campaign