Richard Ratcliffe: IRGC is Holding My Wife “Incommunicado” in a Psychiatric Ward
Iranian Law Guarantees Prisoners Weekly Visits
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps have been denying Imprisoned Iranian-British citizen Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe all contact with the outside world since she was transferred to the psychiatric ward of a hospital in Tehran on July 15, 2019.
In an interview with the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on July 19, Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s London-based husband, Richard Ratcliffe, said it was “deeply concerning” that the IRGC is holding her “incommunicado,” and refusing to allow her Tehran-based parents or daughter to have any contact with her. “They have an opportunity now to pressure her in a number of ways,” he said.
According to Iran’s State Prisons Procedures, weekly visits with family members are a right to which all prisoners are entitled, not a privilege. Yet CHRI has documented numerous instances in which these rules have been frequently flouted—including between inmates who are mothers and their young children.
Excerpts of the interview follow.
CHRI: Why was Nazanin transferred to a psychiatric facility?
Ratcliffe: The head of the Evin Prison clinic informed Nazanin last Wednesday [July 10, 2019] that she would be transferred to a hospital next week, which eventually happened on Monday, July 15. This followed a referral made by her psychiatrist over two months ago stating that she should be hospitalized immediately due to the deterioration in her mental health.
At the time, the prison clinic sat on that psychiatrist report and referral, and did not transmit them to the Health Commission, which was reviewing whether Nazanin was fit enough to be kept in prison. I don’t know the reasons behind the sudden change last week, except that it came soon after Nazanin’s hunger strike, where she had been very clear that she cannot go on. It also came in the immediate aftermath of the UN statement on the denial of her health, signed by the special rapporteur on torture, special rapporteur on Iran, and others.
CHRI: Was she prevented from going to a private hospital?
Ratcliffe: She was not given the option of going to a private hospital. She was told it would be Imam Khomeini Hospital [in Tehran], and so it was. The surprise was more that it was the IRGC guarding her at the hospital, rather than regular prison guards, as had always previously been the case.
CHRI: Have you been able to speak to her since the transfer? How is she feeling?
Ratcliffe: We have not been able to establish any contact with her. No calls allowed, no visits.
On Tuesday [July 16], her father tried to visit her and spent all day at the hospital. He had brought her lunch, but was unable to deliver it. The IRGC guards confirmed that she was in the psychiatric ward, but would not say what treatment she was receiving, how long she would be there, would not let him call her. He left after waiting to the end of that day.
On Wednesday, her mother tried to visit. She was only able to stay an hour. The guards threatened to call the police on her unless she left the waiting area. On Thursday, her lawyer tried to visit. He also was not allowed in.
CHRI: Has Nazanin been able to see or talk to her daughter and family in the hospital?
Ratcliffe: No. We have also asked the British Embassy to visit her in prison. The MFA [Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs] told the embassy in response to that request that they could not do anything to help.
CHRI: Are there any new developments in her case and requests for conditional release? What is her lawyer saying?
Ratcliffe: No progress. At this point, I regard her as being held incommunicado. The repeated denial of access, with her held in a psychiatric ward and subject to unknown treatment, is deeply concerning. Particularly since during the second week of her hunger strike she was visited three times by IRGC interrogators who were pressuring her to sign a denouncement of the British government and new confession, and agree to spy for Iran when released or face a long sentence in a second court case. They have an opportunity now to pressure her in several ways.