Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe: 'Victim of torture' needs 'urgent psychiatric treatment' - charity

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe requires urgent psychiatric treatment as she suffers from PTSD after being a victim of torture, according to a charity which commissioned a detailed medical assessment of her.

Human rights group Redress has called on the Government to recognise Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe as a victim of torture, having sent the Foreign Secretary the 77-page report on the mother-of-one it commissioned from the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT).

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 42, last week completed a five-year sentence in Tehran on spying charges levied by Iranian authorities, the last year of which was spent under house arrest due to the pandemic.

However, Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, whose husband Richard and six-year-old daughter Gabriella live in London, must now return to court to face more charges in the case some observers have linked to a long-standing debt Iran alleges it is owed by the UK.

Richard Ratcliffe said it would take “a long time” for his wife’s mental anxiety to go away and the situation was “still very uncertain,” ahead of her return to court in Iran on Sunday.

Speaking about her treatment on Times Radio, he said: “In fairness to the Iranian regime they are quite sophisticated about not leaving physical scars but they do an awful lot of cruel tricks.

“Things are still very uncertain… that fear of bad stuff happening again, of being put back in solitary (confinement) will stay with her until she’s safe.

“It takes a long time for that anxiety to go away.”

Mr Ratcliffe, said his six-year-old daughter Gabriella was “definitely weaponised” against his wife but that was a “standard tactic”.

He said that guards would call their own children outside his wife’s cell, when she could not, which he described as a “real studied cruelty”.

Coming a day after Boris Johnson demanded her release in a call with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, the report says Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe has post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and obsessive stress disorder because of “extremely stressful, traumatising experiences in the prisons of Iran” and the uncertainty surrounding her immediate future.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, shown here under house arrest. Credit: Handout/Free Nazanin Campaign/PA

It also says at the beginning of her sentence in 2016, Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was interrogated for hours on end, often blindfolded, while in solitary confinement.

Redress says the report also shows the former Thomson Reuters Foundation aid administrator has suffered hair loss, developed obsessive compulsive disorder about washing, and was repeatedly forced to endure hearing a female prison guard’s conversations with her daughter, exacerbating her distress at being separated from her own child.

“In addition, she experiences ongoing physical pain and impairment in her neck, right shoulder, and arm, which arose as a result of her treatment and the denial of medical care,” Redress said in a statement.

The charity said it based its categorisation of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe as a torture victim on UN standards, and said the assessment’s findings were “highly consistent” with Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s allegations of torture and ill-treatment.

It also released a summary letter from from the IRCT detailing findings from the “independent physical and psychological evaluation of Nazanin … conducted by two doctors who are who are recognised forensic specialists over three days in October 2020″.

That letter states Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe “is in urgent need of psychiatric pharmacological and psychotherapeutic support, as well as evaluation and treatment of her physical symptoms”.

“Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s pain and suffering have not abated due to her release from imprisonment to house arrest,” the letter says.

“While she is not feeling as acute stress as she did when she was in prison, she continues to relive and suffer from the serious and long-lasting traumatising issues she experienced during the past (nearly) 5 years.

“In the long-term, without reunification with her family in the UK and effective treatment, Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s conditions will become chronic and potentially deteriorate. Her psychological symptoms and disorders will be unable to resolve themselves and will become chronic and potentially worsen.”

Redress director Rupert Skilbeck said: “Redress has long held that Nazanin’s treatment by Iran amounts to torture. Based on this new evidence, the UK government should publicly acknowledge that Nazanin is a victim of torture in Iran, and do everything in its power to protect her from further harm.”

Mr Skilbeck said despite the efforts of the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), the Government’s policy in relation to the case “has ultimately failed to protect Nazanin for torture”.

“While the FCDO has expressed that it has no obligation to protect British nationals abroad, even where they have been subjected to torture, it is our view that governments have a positive obligation under international law to respond when their citizens have been subjected to torture, given the nature of the absolute prohibition against torture,” Mr Skilbeck said.

“We are asking the UK government to urgently review the FCDO policy towards British citizens detained abroad, and to move beyond a policy of discretion to provide them with a legally enforceable right to consular protection, as the family of Nazanin and other prisoners have long requested.”

In their letter to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab accompanying the report, Redress said: “Iran’s treatment of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe is based on discrimination against her for being a British citizen.

Dominic Raab has received a letter from the charity. Credit: ITV News

“Iranian authorities have intentionally inflicted severe suffering on Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe for the purpose of intimidating or coercing the UK Government into negotiating a deal for her release, coercing her into giving a confession, and forcing her to provide information about others.

“The UK Government should publicly acknowledge Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe as a victim of torture in Iran, and do everything in its power to protect her from further harm.”

A Downing Street spokesman said in his call with Mr Rouhani on Wednesday, the Prime Minister had said “that while the removal of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s ankle monitor was welcome, her continued confinement remains completely unacceptable and she must be allowed to return to her family in the UK.”

Amnesty International UK has called on Britain’s ambassador in Tehran to visit Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe before her court hearing on Sunday to show “maximum solidarity” with her.

Downing Street has previously said officials have been denied access to legal proceedings because Iran does not recognise dual nationality.