Iran’s Foreign Minister Says Judiciary is Responsible for Detained Dual Nationals
Zarif Hopes Their Situation Can Be “Resolved Amicably”
Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said he hoped the situation of detained dual nationals in Iran could be “resolved amicably,” adding that the office of the president has no control over the Judiciary, at a talk in New York on September 23, 2016.
The Judiciary is theoretically independent according to the Iranian Constitution, but a pattern of repeated interferences in its activities by the Intelligence Ministry and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards has seriously undermined its credibility.
Bagher Namazi, Siamak Namazi, Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe, Robin Reza Shahini, and Kamal Foroughi, a 77-year-old Iranian-British man held since May 2011, are among the dual nationals who are currently languishing in Iran’s prisons without access to due process after being arrested by the Revolutionary Guards’ Intelligence Organization.
Civil rights activists and human rights organizations have criticized the administration of President Hassan Rouhani for its inaction in stopping human rights violations. On the international stage, Iranian officials often sidestep responsibility by claiming that the Judiciary is independent even though the president, as the authority in charge of overseeing the Constitution, could call on the Judiciary to respect domestic and international laws on human rights.
Zarif’s statement came in response to a question posed by Hadi Ghaemi, the executive director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran: “During the past three years, you and President [Hassan] Rouhani, especially during your trips abroad, have very actively courted and talked with the Iranian diaspora, particularly the professional and business class, inviting them back to the country. However, the security and intelligence forces of the Islamic Republic have consistently and routinely detained dual nationals who traveled back without evidence of wrongdoing. And they include, for instance, 80-year-old former UN official Bagher Namazi, his son Siamak Namazi, and the mother of a two-year-old, Naznin Ratcliffe.”
“My question is, how do you reconcile your invitation to the Iranian diaspora? How can they trust your invitation, when in practice these detentions and this treatment of dual nationals continues? The answer is not really the ‘independence of the Judiciary’ or ‘the rule of law,’ as you and I know. I would appreciate it if you would explain the policies of yourself and Mr. Rouhani’s abroad, versus the practices at home.”
Zarif replied: “Well, you gave the answer yourself. Because the judiciary in the—in the Islamic Republic is independent, that’s the answer. But you made a statement and that is we invite Iranian Americans and Iranians of any—of any new nationality to come to Iran. Obviously, they all know and it’s written in the back of their passport that when they go to their countries of origin, most countries do not recognize dual citizenship and they’ll be subjected to the laws of their country.”
“But you made also a statement,” continued Zarif. “Hundreds of thousands of Iranians, millions of Iranians, live outside Iran. Thousands of them, hundreds and thousands of them come to Iran on a regular basis and leave Iran on a regular basis without any impediment or any problem. Unfortunately, something happens to some of them. I’m not here to judge what has happened to the individuals you mentioned or others. We hope that their situations could be resolved amicably and we hope that they could return.”
“As you know, I played a role in getting the release of some in the past and we hope that this could continue in the future. But I have to insist that the government—some people, for political reasons, try to say that during the three years of President Rouhani this has happened. President Rouhani has nothing to do with it. This is a Judiciary—no president has anything to do with it. It’s one of the hallmarks of our system. The Judiciary is independent from the executive, and it may have some drawbacks but it has its advantages,” he said.
The host of the debate, Fareed Zakaria of CNN, followed up: “…There is a perception that you and President Rouhani do not have complete control of the government—that there are hardliners in Iran who are—who try to embarrass you at every turn, who try to in some way to complicate your ability to make the kind of outreaches you want to make and that sometimes they use the judiciary where they do tend to dominate—that this is part of a larger problem of your political weakness.”
Zarif responded by pointing to what he described as the plurality of political forces in Iran and mentioned that even in the United States, the Supreme Court makes decisions without government involvement.