James Cleverly – 2021 Statement on Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

The statement made by James Cleverly, the Minister for the Middle East and North Africa, in the House of Commons on 27 April 2021.

Iran’s decision to sentence Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe on further charges is totally inhumane and wholly unjustified. This Government remain committed to doing all that we can to secure Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s return home to the United Kingdom so that she can be reunited with her daughter, Gabriella, and her husband, Richard. It is indefensible and unacceptable that Iran has chosen to continue this wholly arbitrary court case against Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe. The Iranian Government have deliberately put her through a cruel and inhumane ordeal. We continue to call on Iran in the strongest possible terms to end her suffering and allow her to return home.

Since her arrest in April 2016, Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe has faced terrible hardship and appalling treatment. This Government have relentlessly lobbied for an improvement to both the conditions endured by Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe while she was in prison and those conditions still experienced by others, including Morad Tahbaz and Anoosheh Ashoori, who are still incarcerated. Although Iran does not recognise dual nationality, and therefore views Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe as only an Iranian citizen, that has not stopped this Government from lobbying at every opportunity for their release, and her return home to the UK. We have never been granted sight of the judicial process, or consular access to our dual British nationals detained in Iran; however, that has not stopped our ambassador in Tehran consistently pressing for her full and permanent release with senior Iranian interlocutors, most recently today, 27 April.

Since I was last at the Dispatch Box, the Foreign Secretary and Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office officials have been in regular contact with Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her family. Our ambassador in Tehran has visited Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe at her parents’ home in Tehran to reiterate the Government’s commitment to do all that we can to secure her return to the UK. The Foreign Secretary has spoken with both Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her husband to underline the fact that the UK Government, from the Prime Minister down, remain committed to doing everything that we can to achieve that.

Since Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s arrest in 2016, we have raised the case regularly at the highest levels of Government. The Prime Minister has raised it with President Rouhani, most recently on 10 March, and the Foreign Secretary’s personal ongoing engagement with Foreign Minister Zarif continues, with their most recent call being on 3 April. That lobbying of Iranian interlocutors at every opportunity has helped to secure the release of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe in March 2020 and the removal of her ankle tag on 7 March this year.

As I have said, however, what we ultimately seek to achieve, and what we are ultimately working towards, is the release of all British dual nationals held in arbitrary detention in Iran, and their ability to return home. The UK continues to take concrete steps to hold Iran to account for its poor human rights record. At the Human Rights Council in March 2021, we strongly supported the renewal mandate of the United Nations special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, and we made clear to Iran that its repeated violations of human rights, including those of foreign and dual nationals, are completely unacceptable. The UK Government also joined the Canadian initiative against arbitrary detention on 15 February. We continue to work with G7 partners to enhance mechanisms to uphold international law, tackle human rights abuses and stand up for our shared values.

I assure the House that the safety and the treatment of dual British national detainees in Iran remains a top priority for the UK Government. Iran is the one responsible for putting Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe through this cruel and inhumane ordeal over the last five years, and it remains on them to release her to be reunited with her family, and to release the others. We continue to stress that these second charges are baseless. She must not be returned to prison.