Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe: family call upon the UN to condemn Iran’s actions

On Monday 15 March 2021, REDRESS, acting on behalf of the family of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, called upon the UN Special Rapporteurs and Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to issue a public statement of concern, following the conclusion her second trial on Sunday 14 March 2021, and to condemn Iran’s continued cruel treatment, in violation of its international human rights law obligations.

The REDRESS press release is available here.

Nazanin was detained in Iran in 2016 on charges of crimes related to national security, which she did not commit, and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment. The Iranian authorities since charged her with a further baseless offence of “spreading propaganda against the regime”. 

After spending four years in Iran’s notorious Evin prison, in March 2020 Nazanin was placed under house arrest in Tehran with an ankle tag until her sentence ended on 7 March 2021. She has not seen her husband in five years, and has not been able to raise her daughter, who is now six years old. 

Following the completion of her five-year sentence on 7 March 2021, Nazanin was summoned to court on Sunday 14 March in relation to a second case for “spreading propaganda against the regime,” which was first introduced in 2017. The trial, which is not supported by evidence, consisted of a 20 minute hearing and was concluded on Sunday. Nazanin was told she would receive the verdict within seven working days. 

Following a submission by REDRESS, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found in 2016 that Nazanin’s detention was arbitrary, requested her release, and referred the case to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture. In January 2019, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and five other UN experts 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. In March 2019 the UK Government took the exceptional step of escalating the matter to an inter-State dispute by granting Nazanin diplomatic protection.

The UN Special Rapporteur on Iran expressed concern about the new court case before the UN Human Rights Council last week. 

REDRESS also provided a medico-legal report to the UK FCDO last week of Nazanin’s severe physical and psychological suffering due to Iran’s treatment, confirming that she has been subjected to torture. 

Nazanin and her family have been told by Iranian authorities that she is being detained because of the UK’s failure to pay an outstanding £400 million debt to Iran. The debt is the subject of ongoing legal proceedings before the UK courts. 

Rupert Skilbeck, Director of REDRESS, said: 

“Intervention by the United Nations is critical to protecting victims of human rights abuses. We call on the UN experts to publicly condemn Nazanin’s treatment, and demonstrate to Iran that the international community is watching.” 

Dr Tatyana Eatwell, barrister at Doughty Street Chambers, said: 

“It is a matter of grave concern that Nazanin now faces the possibility of a further term of arbitrary detention, with the prospect of her eventual release based not on the length of her sentence, but on the will of those responsible for her cruel treatment.

“Nazanin has already been subjected to a lengthy period of arbitrary detention and ill-treatment amounting to torture. The severe consequences of this treatment are now exacerbated by the continued uncertainty surrounding her fate.” 

Tatyana Eatwell, instructed by REDRESS, has been assisting Nazanin and her husband Richard Ratcliffe, before the UN and the UK FCDO, since 2016. 

The family has also been assisted on other aspects of the case by Professor John Dugard SC and Tayyiba Bawja of Doughty Street Chambers, and Alison Macdonald QC of Essex Court Chambers, also instructed by REDRESS.

Twitter: @FreeNazanin @DoughtyStIntl  @REDRESSTrust