x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 February 2018

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe: British mother jailed in Iran’s treatment ‘amounts to torture’, charity says

Campaigners for the mother-of-one have submitted their case to the UN special rapporteur on torture

Jailed British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with her daughter Gabriella. Free Nazanin Campaign/ AFP Photo
Jailed British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with her daughter Gabriella. Free Nazanin Campaign/ AFP Photo

A British-Iranian mother who has been jailed in Iran for nearly two years has been subjected to “psychological abuse”, which amounts to United Nations criteria for torture.

Campaigners working on behalf of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was arrested in the country in April 2016 on spying charges, have submitted their case to the UN special rapporteur on torture.

The charity Redress said that Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 39, was held in solitary confinement for eight-and-a-half months of her imprisonment and had suffered inhumane conditions of detention, such as being confined to cells measuring just 1.5 x 2 square meters with no window, natural air or light.

The Iranian authorities have repeatedly threatened to send the 39-year-old’s her daughter Gabriella, who had travelled with her mother to Iran in 2016 and is currently living with her grandparents, back to the UK.

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Redress said Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s treatment “is based on discrimination against her for being a British citizen” and is aimed at forcing her into a confession and to force the British authorities into securing a deal for her release.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who denies the allegations made against her, was sentenced to five years in prison in September 2016 by Tehran’s Revolutionary Court.

Her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, who is unable to visit his wife in Iran, said on Wednesday: “I think we have passed the threshold where Nazanin’s treatment is torture.

“These ongoing games remain a kind of psychological torture of continual ups and downs, and pressures impacting on Nazanin.”

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s plight came to international attention last year when Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson falsely said she had been training journalists in Iran.

Britain's foreign secretary Boris Johnson, right, stands opposite Richard Ratcliffe, the husband of British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. Stefan Rousseau / AP
Britain's foreign secretary Boris Johnson, right, stands opposite Richard Ratcliffe, the husband of British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. Stefan Rousseau / AP

Mr Johnson has since apologised for his mistake and travelled to Tehran in December to discuss Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case as well as other dual nationals imprisoned in the country.

Hopes for her release were raised towards the end of last year, but now this is looking increasingly unlikely.

Mr Ratcliffe has now resumed campaigning for his wife’s release after direct assurances failed to materialise.

"It's very hard for both of us to be hopeful at this point. We were obviously very hopeful at Christmas [for her release] and it didn't happen,” Mr Ratcliffe the 43 year-old said.

"It's always good to hold on to the 'maybe', but also part of us putting in the submission now is because it feels like we're just being gamed."

During her 22-month detention, the charity worker has experienced “darkly negative feelings” and “uncontrollable bouts of anger”, according to her husband. She has also suffered hair and severe weight loss.

“Unless urgent action is taken now the appalling treatment that Nazanin has suffered at the hands of Iranian authorities is likely to continue, with the devastating consequences that we have already seen on her physical and mental health,” said Rupert Skilbeck, Director of Redress.

“The serious allegations of torture and ill-treatment in this case demand a closer and urgent examination from the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture.