Protecting UK nationals at risk abroad

REDRESS is working on a project to strengthen UK government support of its nationals arbitrarily detained abroad and at risk of torture and ill-treatment.

The UK government currently uses a policy of discretion in order to determine whether to initially provide support, for example, consular assistance, for a national in distress overseas as well as the strength of the representations it makes.

It is a decision-making process that lacks transparency and cannot be held accountable. It also means that there can often be a gap between what you would expect the UK government to do, and what it actually does.

We believe that the UK should adopt a “default position” and make it known that any risk of the torture or ill-treatment of its nationals will always have consequences.

We advocate with family members of detainees to encourage greater assistance to them and seek greater parliamentary oversight of consular cases involving a risk of torture and ill-treatment.

We are currently supporting several British nationals and their families to ensure their rights are protected.

These include Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe in Iran, Andargachew “Andy” Tsege in Ethiopia, and Jagtar Singh Johal in India.

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has found both Nazanin and Andy to be arbitrarily detained in violation of international law and has called for their immediate release. They were both referred to the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment for appropriate action.

Jagtar has stated that he was severely physically tortured following his arrest in November 2017. To date, he remains detained without being formally charged.

In each of these cases, the UK government is in a position to pursue further diplomatic action both publicly and privately in order to help to protect them from further human rights abuses.


Read our new policy report: Beyond Discretion: the Protection of British Nationals Abroad. 

Beyond Discretion calls for changes to UK law to introduce a right to consular assistance and an obligation to consider providing diplomatic protection, when requested, to help protect British nationals from severe human rights abuses while abroad.

  • Click here to read our latest blog post: Why We Must Change UK Law To Protect British Citizens Detained Abroad From Human Rights Abuses as published in the Huffington Post.
  • In November 2017, REDRESS, together with the #FreeNazanin campaign called on the UK to exercise diplomatic protection in Nazanin’s case. It is our view that the UK Government must treat Nazanin’s case as a legal matter in which her rights have been violated, and seek a remedy, i.e. her immediate return to the UK. See our press release here.
  • On 18 July 2017, more than 50 MPs debated the situation of British nationals arbitrarily detained in Iran. Watch the debate in full here.
  • For the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture on 26 June, REDRESS shared the stories of those whose lives have been affected by torture and ill-treatment. Watch our first video, Bring Nazanin Home, where Nazanin’s husband Richard speaks about the ongoing campaign to #FreeNazanin


Diplomatic protection is a formal State-to-State process employed by the State of nationality when a national suffers injury as a result of an internationally wrongful act committed by another State. It is a procedure intended to secure protection of a national, and to obtain reparation for the wrongful act committed. It may be achieved by way of either “diplomatic action” or “international judicial proceedings”.

The Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR) is a treaty adopted in 1963 that defines a framework for consular relations between states. It sets out the right of a state to intervene in matters concerning its nationals overseas.