UK inquiry launched into Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Ashoori’s detention in Iran

MPs have announced that they will investigate 'state-level hostage situations'

British-Iranians Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori smile as they sit in a plane flying over London after their release from detention in Tehran. Photo: Reuters
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British MPs are to stage an inquiry into the detention and release from Iran of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori.

The Commons Foreign Committee said it would take evidence on how their cases were handled by British officials as part of a wider investigation into “state-level hostage situations”.

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was detained for six years, and Mr Ashoori, who was held for almost five, were released last month after the UK agreed to settle a historic £400 million ($525m) debt dating back to the 1970s.

Following their return both have been critical of the failure of the Foreign Office to secure their freedom sooner.

Announcing the inquiry, committee chairman Tom Tugendhat MP said their return was “long overdue” and that they were right to seek answers as to what happened.

He said that it was also important to look at the wider issues raised by Iran’s use of the detainees as leverage in the debt negotiations.

Iran is not the only country engaging in state hostage taking,” he said.

“The tactic is fast becoming a tool of choice for authoritarian states and recent high-profile cases have highlighted the challenges governments face when securing the release of hostages held captive by states.

“This inquiry will examine the support provided by the FCDO to hostages in recent cases, as well as take a look at the broader picture and ask how the government can clamp down on the practice internationally.”

The announcement of the inquiry was welcomed by Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s local MP, Tulip Siddiq, who was involved in the campaign for her release.

“While in Iran, Nazanin was blindfolded, handcuffed, interrogated and subjected to solitary confinement, sleep deprivation and torture,” she said.

“The government has serious questions to answer about why this was allowed to happen to an innocent British citizen, who was caught as a pawn in a political dispute between two countries.”

The inquiry will discuss the processes and approaches taken by the UK government in securing the release of the detainees in Iran, and other similar situations.

It will aim to assess the likely impact the Foreign Office's approach may have on deterring other states from using this tactic and will consider options for multilateral action to further deter such behaviour.

The inquiry also builds on the committee’s 2020 report, No prosperity without justice: the UK’s relationship with Iran, which concluded that the range of tools on offer to the Foreign Office to resolve such consular disputes was “entirely ineffectual and requires revision”.

The report recommended that the government should work with allies to develop an effective strategy to safeguard British citizens.

It also stated that the government take a lead in the UN to better define and prohibit ‘State Hostage Taking’.

Updated: March 31, 2022, 11:01 PM
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