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Inquiry into the handling of state level hostage situations announced

1 April 2022

The Foreign Affairs Committee launches its inquiry into state level hostage situations. The inquiry will focus on the challenges that the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) faces when handling countries which use extra-judicial detention as a tool for diplomacy. 

This inquiry will examine the recent high profile releases of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori, as well as the precedent the FCDO’s response in these cases may set.

This inquiry will discuss the processes and approaches taken by the UK Government in securing the release of the detainees in Iran, and other similar situations. It will aim to assess the likely impact the FCDO’s approach may have on deterring other states from using this tactic and will consider options for multilateral action to further deter such behaviour. 

This inquiry builds on the Committee’s 2020 report, No prosperity without justice: the UK’s relationship with Iran, which concluded that the range of tools on offer to the FCDO to resolve such consular disputes was “entirely ineffectual and requires revision”. This report recommended that the Government should work with allies to develop an effective strategy to safeguard British citizens. The report also recommended the Government take a lead in the UN to better define and prohibit ‘State Hostage Taking’.

Chair's comments

Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Tom Tugendhat MP, said:

“Nazanin and Anoosheh’s homecoming is wonderful news, but long overdue. After years of imprisonment, in extremely difficult circumstances, Nazanin and Anoosheh are right to ask for answers.

Iran is not the only country engaging in state hostage taking. The tactic is fast becoming a tool of choice for authoritarian states and recent high profile cases have highlighted the challenges governments face when securing the release of hostages held captive by states.

This inquiry will examine the support provided by the FCDO to hostages in recent cases, as well as take a look at the broader picture and ask how the Government can clamp down on the practice internationally.”

Call for evidence

The Committee welcomes written evidence answering the following questions:

  • What were the merits and mistakes made in the approach of the FCDO to the handling of the Iranian hostage situation and any other similar situations in recent years?
  • Does the Government’s approach provide an effective deterrent to state-based hostage situations?
  • What efforts is the Government taking, or should take, to secure international agreement on deterring and handling state-based hostage taking?

Guidance on submitting written evidence and data protection information is available here: Guidance on submitting written evidence.

Deadline for submissions

The deadline for submission of written evidence is 23 May 2022.


We encourage members of underrepresented groups to submit written evidence. We aim to have diverse panels of Select Committee witnesses and ask organisations to bear this in mind when we ask them to choose a representative. We are currently monitoring the diversity of our witnesses.

Further information

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