The UK government must investigate Iranian leaders suspected of being responsible for the crime of hostage-taking of Iranian-British national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe in a bid to force the government to settle a decades-old debt and, if sufficient evidence exists, he must seek their extradition for the purpose of prosecuting them in fair trials.
In a detailed analysis published on 1er June 2022, Amnesty International exposes overwhelming evidence that the detention of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe in Iran amounted to hostage-taking, which is a crime under international law, and highlights the plight of people with dual nationality and foreigners whose arbitrary detention may constitute hostage-taking.
Amnesty International submitted the evidence last month to the UK Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, which launched its own inquiry into state-level hostage-taking situations.
“The Iranian authorities deliberately and shamelessly deprived Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe of his liberty. They have leveled bogus national security charges against her and launched ludicrous legal proceedings in an attempt to pressure the UK government into settling its debts, said Diana Eltahawy, deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa to Amnesty International.
“The prevailing climate of impunity in Iran encourages the authorities to continue to use dual nationals and foreigners as political bargaining chips without fear of consequences. Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s hostage-taking must not go unpunished. We urge the UK government to investigate any Iranian leaders suspected of being responsible for this crime. Where sufficient evidence exists, the UK must seek their extradition and prosecute them in accordance with international fair trial standards. »
The international community must urgently step up efforts to prevent the crime of hostage-taking and to prosecute if necessary, especially as evidence accumulates indicating that the Iranian authorities are holding the Swedish national hostage. Iranian Ahmadreza Djalali and threaten to execute him to coerce third parties into exchanging him for former Iranian officials convicted or tried abroad.
Another likely hostage-taking case is that of Anoosheh Ashoori, a 67-year-old retired Iranian-British engineer who had been arbitrarily detained in Iran since 2017. Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori were allowed to leave the Iran for the UK on March 16, 2022. They were released after the UK government paid 461.4 million euros as a settlement of a dispute with Iran over a debt dating back decades, linked to a breached arms sales agreement from the 1970s.
The prevailing climate of impunity in Iran encourages the authorities to continue to use dual nationals and foreigners as political bargaining chips without fear of consequences
Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release in the wake of the UK settling her debt was accompanied by a slew of Iranian state media reports saying she was freed ‘in return’ for payment of this debt. These articles echoed nearly identical statements made by Iranian authorities to Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and his family during his detention. Just two days before her release, Islamic Revolutionary Guard officials summoned Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe for questioning and told her explicitly that she was to be “exchanged for money”.
Amnesty International reviewed detailed evidence in Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case before concluding that her unlawful deprivation of liberty constituted the crime of hostage-taking. She interviewed sources close to Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, thoroughly reviewed documents related to the UK-Iran debt dispute, and analyzed public statements by Iranian officials as well as comments they made. held privately to Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and his family.
Amnesty International notes that while there is similar evidence in cases of detained dual nationals and foreigners that demonstrates that the Iranian authorities make their treatment and release conditional on the acts or omissions of other states, their deprivation of liberty may also constitute a crime of hostage taking.
In addition to Ahmadreza Djalali, Amnesty International has documented the cases of at least six other dual nationals currently detained in Iran: the Austro-Iranians Kamran Ghaderi and Massud Mossaheb; German-Iranians Nahid Taghavi and Jamshid Sharmahd; and two British-Iranians, Mehran Raoof and Morad Tahbaz (who is also an American citizen).
In March 2022, Shokrollah Jebeli, an 82-year-old Australian-Iranian national, died in custody after being deliberately denied adequate specialist medical care and medication for the multiple and serious medical conditions he suffered from.
In light of concerns about the practice of Iranian authorities using dual nationals and foreign detainees as leverage, Amnesty International urges all states whose nationals are or have ever been detained in Iran to promptly consider whether deprivation of liberty amounts to an act of hostage-taking and, where appropriate, to take all appropriate measures to secure their release and ensure accountability.
Iran and the United Kingdom are parties to the International Convention against the Taking of Hostages, which criminalizes acts of hostage taking by state and non-state actors, and obliges states to take measures to prevent and sanction such acts. The Convention defines hostage-taking as the capture or detention of a person accompanied by threats to harm him, for example to kill him, to injure him, or to continue to detain him in order to coerce a third party, such as state, to do or refrain from doing any act as an express or implied condition of the release of the hostage.
1er April, the UK Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee announced an inquiry into state hostage-taking and called for evidence.