Iran accused of 'state hostage-taking' by UK human rights charity

Estimates suggest there have been at least 50 cases of dual and foreign citizens being arbitrarily detained by Iran since 2015

Some of the more high-profile cases of detentions by Iran include that of Iranian-British citizen Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was detained in April 2016 and released in March 2022. AFP
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A new report by human rights charity Redress has accused the Iranian government of carrying out “state hostage-taking”.

With a special session of the UN Human Rights Council on Iran scheduled for Thursday, the report estimates that since 2015, there have been at least 50 cases of dual and foreign citizens being arbitrarily detained by the country.

Some of the more high-profile cases include that of Iranian-British citizen Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was detained in April 2016 and released in March 2022 along with fellow British-Iranian hostage Anoosheh Ashoori.

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

Redress, which worked with the Free Nazanin Campaign in drawing up the report, has examined evidence brought by 26 victims or their family members.

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

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori released — in pictures

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

“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 take aim at those responsible for human rights abuses or corruption.

“We like to think of-hostage taking as the ad hoc practice of racketeering groups,” said Richard Ratcliffe, of the Free Nazanin Campaign and husband of Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

“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.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe speaks for first time since release from Iran — video

“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.

Mr Ratcliffe added: “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.”

Updated: November 23, 2022, 11:34 PM
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