Iran’s Arbitrary Detention of Foreign and Dual Nationals as Hostage-taking and Crimes Against Humanity


Par Marina Sharpe
Journal of International Criminal Justice

This article examines, within the frame of international criminal law, Iran’s arbitrary detention of foreign and dual nationals for leverage over the detainee’s (other) country of nationality. It provides an overview of Iran’s pattern of conduct since 2010, involving at least 66 victims, and analyses this in terms of hostage-taking and crimes against humanity. First, we argue that Iran’s pattern of conduct constitutes hostage-taking within the meaning of the International Convention Against the Taking of Hostages. This gives rise to Iran’s international responsibility for the breaches concerned and has important implications for victims’ and their loved ones’ perceptions of their experiences. Second, we assess the context elements of the definition of crimes against humanity as well as the gravity threshold and the compatibility of the pattern of conduct with the requisite elements of the relevant underlying offences: imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty, torture, and persecution. We conclude that the actions of certain Iranian officials reasonably satisfy the requirements for crimes against humanity. This is legally important for the application of crimes against humanity jurisprudence to this new context. It also opens avenues of accountability, given the aut dedere aut judicare provisions for crimes against humanity enacted by many states and the growth of sanctions legislation in several states. It should be difficult for responsible officials to travel outside Iran for fear of arrest and sanction.

7 mars 2022
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