Human rights charity accuses Iran of ‘state hostage-taking’

The report estimates that since 2015 there have been at least 50 cases of dual and foreign nationals being arbitrarily detained by Iran.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe detained
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe detained

Human rights charity Redress has released a report accusing the Iranian government of carrying out “state hostage-taking”.

The report, released ahead of a special session of the UN Human Rights Council on the deterioration of human rights in Iran on Thursday, estimates that since 2015 there have been at least 50 cases of dual and foreign nationals being arbitrarily detained by Iran.

This includes Iranian-British national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe who was detained in April 2016 and released in March 2022 along with another British-Iranian hostage Anoosheh Ashoori.

The report also states that at least nine European nationals have been detained during recent protests following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in September after she was arrested by the Iranian Guidance Patrol for wearing an “improper” hijab.

A picture of Mahsa Amini left outside the Iranian Embassy in London
A picture of Mahsa Amini left outside the Iranian Embassy in London (Luke O’Reilly/PA)

REDRESS, which has worked with the Free Nazanin Campaign in drawing up the report, has examined the testimonies of 26 victims or their family members.

Their accounts detail their initial detention and interrogation through illegitimate legal proceedings, abuses suffered during imprisonment, false and abusive propaganda by the regime, and their use as “diplomatic assets”.

Leanna Burnard, legal adviser at REDRESS, said: “Our report demonstrates that through its hostage-taking practice, Iran is blatantly and systematically violating human rights, including through torture and ill-treatment.

“The international community must hold Iran to account during the UN Human Rights Council Special Session this week, and through imposing Magnitsky sanctions on those responsible.”

‘Magnitsky’ sanctions target those responsible for human rights violations or corruption.

Richard Ratcliffe, of the Free Nazanin Campaign and husband of Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe, said: “We like to think of-hostage taking as the ad hoc practice of racketeering groups. In fact, governments are now the market leaders for the hostage taking of British and US citizens.

“It is a much more dangerous challenge when the powers of a state are subverted to criminal acts.

“This report shows how Iran’s judiciary, diplomats and media are all now corroded by being subordinated to racketeering agendas and holding the citizens of other countries for diplomatic leverage.”

“The world needs to stop sweeping Iran’s hostage diplomacy under the carpet. Not only have the Iranian authorities got away with abusing too many people, the past months have shown us where that culture of impunity takes us for the abandonment of human rights in the rest of Iran.

“The world is watching, and the bad guys are learning. It is time to change the conversation, starting this week at the UN.”

A FCDO spokeswoman said: “It is entirely within Iran’s gift to release any British national who has been unfairly detained, and to end this practice once and for all.

“The UK does not, and never will, accept our nationals being used as diplomatic leverage.

“We urge the government of Iran to stop unfairly detaining British and other foreign nationals and we continue to work with like-minded partners.”

The spokeswoman added that on October 3, the FCDO summoned Iran’s Chargé d’Affaires in the UK over the Iranian authorities’ worsening crackdown on protests and on October 10, the UK imposed sanctions on senior security and political figures in Iran and the so-called ‘Morality Police’ in response to Mahsa Amini’s death.

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