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Former Foreign Office ministers, Jeremy Hunt MP and Alistair Burt, questioned by MPs

16 May 2022

The Foreign Affairs Committee Committee hosts an evidence session with two former Foreign Office ministers.

Purpose of the session

On 17 March 2022 British citizens, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori, landed at RAF Brize Norton having been detained by the Iranian authorities for more than five years each. During their detention they experienced interrogation and spells in prison.

Their release coincided with the payment of the UK Government of £400 million owed to the Iranian Government upon the failure to deliver on an arms deal from in the 1970s. Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe questioned how it took “five foreign secretaries over six years” to bring her home.

In the first evidence session of this inquiry, MPs will explore the processes and approaches taken by the UK Government in securing the release of the detainees in Iran and other similar situations with two senior figures at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office during 2017-2019.  Alistair Burt was a minister of state while Jeremy Hunt MP served as Foreign Secretary.

The cases of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori are not unique. They present several challenges to the FCDO in terms of how they deal with countries who use extra-judicial detention as a tool for diplomacy as well as the precedent their response in this case may set.

The Committee’s inquiry will assess the likely impact their approach may have on deterring other states from using this tactic and will consider options for multilateral action to further deter such behaviour. In a previous report published in 2020, No prosperity without justice: the UK’s relationship with Iran, the Committee concluded that the range of tools on offer to the FCDO to resolve such consular disputes was “entirely ineffectual and requires revision.”

Further information

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