‘Iranian judiciary intent on suppressing independent lawyers and rights defenders’

‘Iranian judiciary intent on suppressing independent lawyers and rights defenders’

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An Iranian human rights lawyer says the latest move by the judiciary to stifle the independence of lawyers shows the presence of “even a small number of human rights defenders is intolerable for the judiciary”.

Hossein Ahmadiniaz, who now lives and works in Europe, was speaking to Article18 after new regulations were introduced last month, giving the judiciary the power to issue and revoke lawyers’ licenses – a power until now held by Iran’s independent Bar Association.

“For 42 years, the Iranian judiciary has been trying to undermine the relative independence of the Bar Association and gain more control over it,” Mr Ahmadiniaz explained.

“All the efforts and goals of the Iranian judiciary are to suppress independent lawyers and human rights defenders. The judiciary itself has become a tool of repression and violation of the law of advocacy.”

Mr Ahmadiniaz pointed out that the new regulations are only the latest in a long line of efforts to stymie the independence of the Bar Association, such as the passing of the “Third Development Plan Act” in 2000, which allowed the judiciary to establish an office for the “supervision” of lawyers.

“We have been protesting ever since, but because [the judiciary] have the power, they continue to act against the law,” he explained. “Because the Iranian judiciary is not independent, it does not want the Bar Association to be independent.”

The National Union of Iranian Bar Associations has opposed the new regulations, describing them as a “violation of the rights of citizens to defend themselves”.  

In a statement on 3 July, the union said they will not implement them until they are amended.

Many Iranian human rights defenders have landed up in jail for their work, such as Nasrin Sotoudeh, and Amirsalar Davoudi, whose clients have included Christian converts like Amin Afshar-Naderi and Nasser Navard Gol-Tapeh.

Meanwhile, though under Iran’s constitution every defendant is entitled to a lawyer of their own choosing, Iran’s judiciary continues to illegally vet which lawyers prisoners can use – particularly in “security” cases, such as those of Christian converts – or even completely deny them their legal right to counsel.