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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe needs 'urgent mental health treatment,' charity warns
12 March 2021, 11:02
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe suffers from major depression and PTSD and requires urgent psychiatric treatment as a victim of torture, according to a charity.
As Mrs Zaghari-Ratliffe prepares to return to court in Iran on Sunday, human rights group Redress commissioned a detailed medical assessment of her which unveiled the shocking impact of the experience on her mental health.
The charity has called on the Government to recognise her as a victim of torture and has sent the Foreign Secretary the 77-page report it commissioned from the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT).
The 42-year-old 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.
But Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, whose husband Richard and six-year-old daughter Gabriella live in London, has been ordered to 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.
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.
It also says at the beginning of her sentence in 2016 that Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was interrogated for hours on end, often blindfolded, while in solitary confinement.
Redress says the report also shows she has suffered hair loss, developed obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) 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.
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.
"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."
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."
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.