Middle East Minister Rt. Hon. Alistair Burt MP has condemned Iran’s “dire” human rights record, informing MPs that the UK Government is “determined to continue to hold the Iranian Government to account”.
The Minister’s comments came during a Westminster Hall debate yesterday on British prisoners in Iran, where cross-party MPs raised their concerns about UK citizens held in Iranian custody.
CFI Vice Chairman John Howell MP led Conservative calls for the Iranian government to release the prisoners, and uphold human rights throughout the country.
Mr Howell said that the “scandalous systematic abuse of human rights in Iran” was not mentioned in the nuclear deal signed by Iran and the P5+1 in July 2015, suggesting that “we missed an opportunity” to include a human rights clause.
He added that “in the two years since it was signed, there has been no improvement at all in Iran’s activities”.
The MP for Henley referred to the four American prisoners released from Iranian prisons in 2016 “as part of a prisoner swap that came about following the Iran nuclear agreement”, stating that “nothing similar has occurred with regard to those Britons who have been detained in Iran over the same period”.
CFI Officer Oliver Dowden MP and Mary Robinson MP emphasised the importance of securing medical treatment for British prisoners, as well as the need for Iran to share the results of any medical assessments with the prisoners’ families.
Mr Dowden raised awareness of the imprisonment of Kamal Foroughi, a 78-year-old British-Iranian national urgently requiring medical attention.
British prisoners also held by Iran include 37-year-old dual British-Iranian citizen Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and 50-year-old Roya Nobakht, and another Briton who has not been named.
Conservative MP Mims Davies said that constituents had written to her about Nazanin’s “heartbreaking and awful situation”, which Mark Pritchard MP said is “symptomatic of a regime that is systematically abusing human rights”.
Ranil Jayawardena MP urged the Government to”redouble our efforts to ensure that the Iranian Government are under no illusion about where we stand” on issues of dual citizenship.
Conservative MP for Witney, Robert Courts, added that “an important human right is that of legal representation to ensure access to justice”, stating that “one of the most horrifying aspects of both Nazanin and Kamal’s cases is the absence of that legal advice”.
DUP MP Jim Shannon referred to Iran’s support of terror groups including Hezbollah, to which the Islamic Republic recently provided weapons factories in Lebanon.
Responding to the debate, Minister Burt recognised the “deep concern felt about all the cases mentioned today and the huge frustration at the lack of progress”, making clear that the UK Government’s responsibility is to “work in the most effective way we can”.
He underlined: “The Government take human rights and the rule of law seriously, and the human rights situation in Iran remains dire”, adding that “we are determined to continue to hold the Iranian government to account”.
Read the full debate here.