The government must invoke diplomatic protection to bring Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe home

Business as usual simply will not do.

NS

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Despite his personal agony over the past 18 months, Richard Ratcliffe has shown himself to be the epitome of bravery and dignity.

From the very first meeting at my constituency office, his determination to secure the release of his family was obvious and I’m sure second nature – but the energy in which he has brought the case to the public’s attention has been utterly inspiring. It is tempting to suggest that this week’s headlines are solely due to the travails of the Foreign Secretary, and damaging though his words have been, it is Richard’s persistence that has forced the Government to finally act.

With an apology from the Foreign Secretary finally on the record, now is the time to double down on the efforts to bring Nazanin home.

The FCO’s civil servants have worked hard to update Richard on their correspondence with Iranian counterparts, and while nobody is denying the practical challenges of freeing a dual national from a country that does not recognise dual nationality – the deterioration of Nazanin’s health and the ongoing abuses of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and their judiciary means that we have arrived at a point of no return. Standard consular relations, or business as usual, simply will not do.

That is why Richard and Redress – an NGO providing legal assistance to the family - are now calling for the Government to exercise diplomatic protection in Nazanin’s case. Diplomatic protection is a mechanism in which a State may secure reparations for the injury of one of its nationals when their human rights have been breached.

In Nazanin’s case, it is clear that her captors have violated her fundamental rights under both international and Iranian law. Sadly, the Government are yet to respond in a way that sufficiently reflects this.

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention recognised the severity of Nazanin’s case in October 2016 when they declared her treatment as both ‘arbitrary and unlawful’. They noted that Nazanin has been ill-treated and that just about every right that she is entitled to through a fair trial have been violated. In contrast to our Government, the UN also formally called for her immediate release.

The barristers supporting Redress believe that Nazanin has been targeted unjustly because of her British nationality. This is a crucial point when considering the suitability of diplomatic protection as a possible next step. Though some have been quick to suggest Nazanin’s dual nationality would be a stumbling block in taking this path, the experts from Doughty and Matrix Chambers are clear that Nazanin’s extensive ties to Britain give the Government the right to act without Iran’s consent.

By exercising diplomatic protection, Britain would be elevating the matter to an inter-State dispute. In practical terms this could translate from basic mediation to a judicial dispute settlement – it need not be the hostile escalation that some are incorrectly suggesting. Their concern over ‘hostile behaviour’ should lie with the Iranian regime, who continue to hold captive an innocent citizen.

Both Richard and I have long argued that Nazanin’s life is in West Hampstead. She works here, she is raising her first child here, and she is happily married here. The protestations of Iranian officials who treat Nazanin’s human rights with contempt should not distract the Government from pursuing the reasonable tools that are at their disposal as they aim to bring this wholly unjust case to a close.

Campaigners will not rest until Nazanin is freed, but we will grow restless if the Government continues to play softball on this outrageous abuse of our citizen’s rights.”

Tulip Siddiq is MP for Hampstead and Kilburn