Letter to HRVP Borrell concerning the plight of EU citizens held hostage in Iran

EU Watch recently sent a letter to EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell in which we asked him what he and the EU diplomatic service have done to free EU citizens detained in Iran, such as Jamshid Sharmahd (Germany) and Ahmadreza Djalali (Sweden) who are both facing executions.

Dear Mr. Borrell,

At least 14 citizens of the European Union are currently detained arbitrarily in Iran. Many have been held in solitary confinement for extended periods of time, in inhumane conditions and without a fair trial. Jamshid Sharmahd of Germany and Ahmadreza Djalali of Sweden have been sentenced to death and could be executed at any moment.

So far, attempts by member states to secure the release of their respective citizens imprisoned in Iran have been unsuccessful.

In view of the values of the European Union enshrined in the Treaty and the conclusions of the Council of the EU of 12 December 2022 which stated that “the European Union strongly rejects Iran’s practice of arbitrary detention of foreign citizens, including dual nationals, and calls upon Iran to end the distressing practice of detaining innocent foreign civilians with a view to making political gains”, we wanted to ask you the following questions:

  1. What have you and the EEAS done to secure the release of the EU citizens detained in Iran?
  2. Have you consulted with the families of the prisoners concerned?
  3. Is the European Union willing to take further restrictive measures vis-à-vis Iran, including economic sanctions similar to those the EU adopted against Russia?
  4. In light of the role of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in the violent crackdown on protests, the arrest of EU citizens and international terrorist activities, will the Council consider including the IRGC in its list of terrorist organisations?

We would be most grateful if you could share your answers with us at your earliest convenience.

UPDATE: We have received a response to our letter. Scroll down to read the response from the head of the Iran Division at the EEAS, the European External Action Service.

Below is the full reply to the letter of EU Watch from the head of the Iran Division at EEAS

Dear Mr. Thaidigsmann,

Thank you for your letter of March 31 addressed to the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission (HRVP).

The increasing number of EU and dual EU-Iranian citizens detained in Iran is a matter of serious concerns. This is clearly indicated in the Council Conclusions adopted last December, outlining the EU’s policy approach towards Iran and which you referred to. Before answering your questions, allow me to recall that under EU and international law, EU Member States have primary responsibilities on their respective consular cases. As a result, the EU provides all the support the EU Member States concerned need to complement their consular efforts.

Turning now to your questions:

-The HRVP and his services are in constant coordination with EU Member States with active consular cases and use their direct channels with the Iranian authorities to facilitate the release of EU and dual EU citizens held on spurious grounds. On 20 February 2023, the HRVP issued a statement on behalf of the EU calling upon Iran to end the distressing practice of detaining foreign civilians with a view to making political gains.

-As part of the close coordination with EU Member State with active consular cases, it is common for the HRVP and his team to be in touch with some of the families concerned.

-As part of its comprehensive policy approach, as outlined in the Council Conclusions of December 2022, the EU will continue to respond to developments in Iran by taking into account all tools at its disposal, including further restrictive measures. Of note, the Foreign Affairs Council has been addressing situation in Iran in every single session since October and adopted 7 consecutive rounds of sanctions for human rights violations.

-The EU has listed the IRGC under several EU sanctions regimes, either in its entirety or individuals/entities of the IRGC.

Kind regards,

Dr. Bruno Scholl

Head of the EEAS Iran Division

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