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Iran: Despite promises from authorities, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe remains in prison

2018-01-03

The holidays have passed, and British-Iranian media worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe remains in Evin prison in Iran, after hopes for an early release were dashed. After the largest street protests since the 2009 elections began on 28 December 2017, it seems likely her case is not a high priority for the authorities. Over 20 people have reportedly died during protests against Iran’s weak economy.

On 03 April 2016, Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was visiting her family in Iran with her three-year-old daughter Gabriella. Zaghari-Ratcliffe was detained at Imam Khomeini Airport of Tehran by members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). She was arrested with her daughter as they were about to board a flight back to the United Kingdom. Zaghari-Ratcliffe was using her Iranian passport and her daughter was using a British passport, which was confiscated during the arrest, but later returned. Her daughter remains in Iran under the care of her maternal grandparents, so she can visit her mother.

On 10 September 2016, the news was published that Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been sentenced to five years in jail "for allegedly plotting to topple the Iranian regime," amid claims that she had been training journalists in Iran. However, Zaghari-Ratcliffe maintains she was just visiting family.

The Iranian government appeared to promise an early release from prison, following advocacy by the British government, leading to hopes she would be freed in December 2017.

But the recent protests have thrown the country into turmoil, with social media sites being closed down and the authorities promising to act to end protests. Instagram and Telegram have been blocked since 31 December, amid claims by the authorities of “foreign interference.”

Most journalists and human rights defenders are detained in the infamous Evin prison, where they are often reportedly held in bad conditions and subject to ill treatment. Other dual nationals have not been spared from lengthy sentences in Evin prison, including journalists Jason Rezaian, Maziar Bahari and Roxana Saberi. Zahra Kazemi, an Iranian-Canadian photojournalist died in custody in Evin prison a few weeks after being arrested on 23 June 2003 while taking photographs of a public protest.

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) urges the authorities in Iran to:

  1. Immediately and unconditionally release Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and all journalists and human rights defenders in prison;
  2. Restore access to social media sites including Instagram and Telegram; and
  3. Allow human rights defenders and journalists to carry out their work freely in Iran, without any restrictions and regardless of nationality.

GCHR respectfully reminds you that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognised Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognizes the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals. We would particularly draw your attention to Article 6 (c) Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others: (c) To study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters" and to Article 12.2, which provides that the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration.”