Richard Ratcliffe, the husband of jailed British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, is due to meet with UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson this week.
The developments come as concerns over Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s health mount. In addition to suffering from severe depression, she has also complained of persistent pain in her breasts. On November 11, she was allowed to visit a medical consultant outside the hospital, who confirmed there were lumps in both breasts.
Ratcliffe had a phone conversation with Johnson on November 12, during which the foreign secretary said he would look into the prospect of Ratcliffe accompanying him on his forthcoming trip to Iran. Ratcliffe also emphasized the importance of Britain putting Nazanin under diplomatic protection, a measure that would give the UK greater leverage in calling for the release of a British citizen.
Diplomatic protection allows a state to seek reparation for injury to one of its nationals, specifically in response to the violation of that citizen’s rights. The opinion — prepared by legal experts by Doughty Street Chambers and Matrix Chambers — also asserts that Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s “predominant nationality” is British because she has been living, working and raising a family in the UK. This means the UK is in a position to engage the protection mechanism with a view to securing her release.
Human rights organization Redress helped the family submit the legal opinion to the Foreign Office about how diplomatic protection might help bring about Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release. The move was made public last week after Iran’s judiciary, bolstered by official Iranian media outlets, used comments made by Foreign Secretary Johnson to further intimidate and threaten Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has now been in prison for 18 months.
“Nazanin has been languishing in jail for almost 600 days,” said Redress Director Carla Ferstman. The Foreign Office has insisted that her case is a consular matter, but it is clear that the matter has moved well beyond this. Because all of her fundamental rights were violated, the character of the case has changed, and the Foreign Secretary ought to recognize this and take all means at the disposal of the government to secure Nazanin’s immediate release.”
Redress emphasized that diplomatic protection is not the same as diplomatic immunity, which is not relevant in Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case. Diplomatic protection, Redress said, “can consist of formal protest, a request for an inquiry or for negotiations aimed at the settlement of disputes, negotiation, mediation and conciliation ranging up to arbitral and judicial dispute settlement.”
"More Instability" will not Help Nazanin
After months of minimal communication with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Boris Johnson finally spoke out about the continued detention of Zaghari-Ratcliffe on November 1. But he soon came under fire after he erroneously told a parliamentary committee that Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been training journalists at the time of her arrest.
In recent media interviews, Richard Ratcliffe has said unequivocally that he does not believe instability will benefit his wife’s case, and so has not endorsed any calls for the foreign secretary to resign. "Nazanin’s interests are not served by more instability," he said in a statement.
A spokesperson for Prime Minister Theresa May said she had also been "engaged” with the Zaghari-Ratcliffe case, and had spoken twice to Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, about her case.
“For me, the lesson at the end of the week has been the depth of care out there for Nazanin,” Richard Ratcliffe said in a statement. “Maybe with this attention we are on the road to a different day.”
Ratcliffe was also able to speak to his wife on November 12, and she updated him on her medical condition. After complaining of pain in her breasts for months and requesting an external doctor to examine her, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was taken to a hospital outside the prison on November 11. Lumps were found in both of her breasts, and although the specialist said they were most likely benign, he acknowledged that her condition should be closely monitored because she had been experiencing pain, and given the fact that her family has a history of breast cancer and that many cancers can be caused or made worse by stress. He recommended that he see her again in a week’s time, and prescribed her medication.