- Judicial system of Iran
Judicial system of Iran
قوه فضاییه جمهوری اسلامی ایران
The main building of Judicial system of Iran in Tehran.
Jurisdiction Islamic Republic of Iran Location Tehran Composition method Supreme Leader selection with Judges approval Authorized by Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran Judge term length 5 years Chief Justice Currently Sadeq Larijani Since 30 June 2009
After the 1979 overthrow of the Pahlavi Dynasty by the Islamic Revolution, the system was greatly changed. The legal code is now based on Shi'a Islamic law or sharia. According to the constitution of the Islamic Republic, the judiciary in Iran "is an independent power." The entire legal system - "from the Supreme Court to regional courts, all the way down to local and revolutionary courts" - is under the purview of the Ministry of Justice, but in addition to a Minister of Justice and head of the Supreme Court, there is also a separate appointed head of the judiciary. Parliamentary bills pertaining to the constitution are vetted by the Council of Guardians.
- 1 History
- 2 Islamic Republic
- 2.1 Structure of the judicial system
- 2.2 Court structure
- 2.3 Prison system
- 2.4 Law
- 2.5 Criticism and human rights issues
- 3 List of Heads
- 4 See also
- 5 References
- 6 External links
This article is part of the series:
Politics and government of
According to one scholar, the administration of justice in Islamic Iran has been until recent times
a loosely sewn and frequently resewn patchwork of conflicting authority in which the different and sometimes conflicting sources for Islamic law - the jurists, the actual judges, and the non-Islamic law officials of the king - disputed with each other over the scope of their jurisdictions.... some aspects of the law always remained in the hands of the mullahs ... The village mullah was the natural arbiter in matters of marriage, divorce, and inheritance; and the exalted jurisconsult, in order to carry out the very function for which he was exalted, gave opinions on those matters of law on which he was consulted. In between the village mullah and the jurisconsult there were mullahs with courts which, while sometimes sanctioned by the royal government, depended for their power on the prestige of the presiding mullah judge as much or more than on the government's sanction
Since the sixteenth century AD Iran has been the only country in the world having Shi’ah Islam as its official religion, consequently the general principles of its legal system differed somewhat from those of other countries which followed Islamic law.
Among the ways law in Iran and the rest of the Muslim world differed from European law was in its lack of a single law code. "Thirteen centuries of Islamic - more particularly Shiah - tradition" called for jurists to base decisions on their legal training as it applied to the situation being judged. There was also no appeal in traditional Islamic law.
One jurists's `discovery` of the ruling of law for a specific case would not have been invalidated by some other jurist's discovery of a different ruling for that case; only God could choose between them, and until the Resurrection (or in the case of the Shiah, the return of the Twelfth Imam) God had left the matter to the jurists, and the first actual judgement was final, as otherwise there would have been an infinite regress of opinions without any final judgement. For the Shiah, ... resistance to a single written code was even stronger; the jurisconsult's right to describe the law in his own way was the very essence of the doctrine that had revived the jurisconsult school at the end of the 18th century."
As far as the judicial system is concerned, the changes were quite minor until the end of the nineteenth century.
Major events marking the judicial history of Iran during the modern era include the Constitutional Revolution of 1906, which gave the country its first Constitution and Bill of Rights, the fall of the Qajars and the rise of the Pahlavi Dynasty in the 1920s, when accession to a modern judicial organisation became one of Iran’s greatest challenges, and the Islamic Revolution.
"Regime of capitulations"
As European military and technological power began to be felt in 19th century Iran, Westerns insisted on special treatment in Iranian courts. This came in the form of treaties between most European governments and Iran requiring the presence at the trial of any European in Iran of a representative of that European's home country, who would countersign the decision of the Iranian court, and without whose countersignature the "decision of the Iranian court could have no effect." The Europeans insisted on this legal veto right - "called the regime of capitulations" - on the grounds that Iran had no written legal code so that "no one knew what laws foreigners would be judged by." Iran followed traditional Islamic practice of each judge giving his own interpretation of Islamic law for a given litigation, with no right of appeal.
Iranians in general opposed these capitulations, and secular Iranians such as Mohammed Mossadeq, wanted a establish a fixed written law they believed would not only end the capitulations but facilitate the building of a strong and unified state.
Under the secularist reign of Reza Shah many changes were made in Iran's judicial system, and the establishment of a fixed written law with appeals courts was one of them. In March 1926, Minister of Judicial Affairs Ali-Akbar Davar dissolved Iran's entire judiciary, with the approval of the parliament, and initiating a wave of fundamental restructuring and overhauling reforms with the aid of French judicial experts. By April 1927 Iran had 600 newly-appointed judges in Tehran. Davar subsequently attempted to expand the new system into other cities of Iran through a programme involving training of 250 judges.
Reza Shah represented his legal reforms as "tentative experiments" and allowed the religious judges to keep their courts for matters such as inheritance. In 1936, however, the new system was made permanent and the religious courts were abolished.
In 1979 the secular, westernizing Pahlavi Dynasty was overthrown and replaced by an Islamic Republic under the rule of Ayatollah Khomeini. While the revolution did not dismantle the Pahlavi judiciary in its entirety, it replaced women and secular-trained jurists "with seminary-educated ones, and codified more features of the sharia into state laws - especially the Law of Retribution."  (see Qisas)
Structure of the judicial system
The 1979 Constitution of the Islamic Republic called for the judiciary to be "an independent power," and charges it with "investigating and passing judgement on grievances; ... supervising the proper enforcement of laws; ... uncovering crimes; prosecuting, punishing, and chastising criminals;" taking "suitable measures" to prevent crime and reform criminals. The head of the judiciary is to be a "just Mujtahid" appointed by the Supreme Leader and serve for "a period of five years." He is responsible for the "establishment of the organizational structure" of the judicial system; "drafting judiciary bills" for parliament; hiring, firing promoting and assigning judges. Judges cannot be dismissed without a trial.
Judicial authority is constitutionally vested in the Supreme Court and the four-member High Council of the Judiciary, according to Hunt Janin and Andre Kahlmeyer.
According to Article 160 of the constitution
The Minister of Justice owes responsibility in all matters concerning the relationship between the judiciary, on the one hand, and the executive and legislative branches, on the other hand. ... The head of the judiciary may delegate full authority to the Minister of Justice in financial and administrative areas and for employment of personnel other than judges.
The minister is to be chosen by the president from a list of candidates proposed by the head of the judiciary. The head of the supreme court and Prosecutor-General are also to be "just mujtahids" "nominated" by the head of the judiciary "in consultation with the judges of the Supreme Court" and serving for a period of five years. 
According to Luiza Maria Gontowska, the Iranian court structure includes Revolutionary Courts, Public Courts, Courts of Peace and Supreme Courts of Cassation. There are 70 branches of the Revolutionary Courts. Public courts consist of Civil (205), Special Civil (99), First class criminal (86) and Second Class Criminal (156). Courts of Peace are divided into Ordinary courts (124), and Independent Courts of Peace (125), and Supreme Courts of Cassation (22). 
The courts of the Islamic Republic are based on an inquisitorial system, such as exists in France, rather than an adversarial system of the United Kingdom. The judge serves not only as judge but as prosecutor, jury, and arbiter. However, according to Article 168 of Iran's constitution, in certain cases involving the media, a jury is allowed to be the arbiter. The judge holds absolute power. In practice, judges may be overwhelmed by cases, and not have the time to excogitate about each case. All judges are certified in Islamic law.
In addition to public courts that deal with civil and criminal cases, in the Islamic Republic there are special courts for trying clerics and for trying criminal activity deemed especially dangerous.
The rulings of the Special Clerical Court, which functions independently of the regular judicial framework and is accountable only to the Supreme Leader, are also final and cannot be appealed. The Special Clerical Court handles crimes allegedly committed by clerics, although it has also taken on cases involving lay people.
Islamic Revolutionary Courts that try certain categories of offenses, including crimes against national security, narcotics smuggling, and acts that are said to undermine the Islamic Republic.
Shortly after the overthrow of the monarchy, Revolutionary Tribunals were set up in the major towns, with two courts in the capital of Tehran - one each in the prison of Qasr and Evin, and one traveling tribunal for Hojjat al-Islam Sadegh Khalkhali, who was known for his stiff sentences. The courts presiding judges were clerics appointed by Khomeini himself. The decisions rendered by the Revolutionary courts initially were final and could not be appealed, and so bypassed what remained of the Justice Ministry and its appeal system.
At least at first, the revolutionary courts differed from standard Western law courts by limiting trials to a few hours, sometimes minutes. Defendants could be found guilty on the basis of `popular repute.` The concept of defense attorney was dismissed as a `Western absurdity.` A charge that was widely applied against defendants but unfamiliar to some was `sowing corruption on earth` (mofsed-e-filarz). This covered a variety of offenses - "`insulting Islam and the clergy,` `opposing the Islamic Revolution,` `supporting the Pahlavis,` and `undermining Iran's independence` by helping the 1953 coup and giving capitulatory privileges to the imperial powers." 
Iran's prison system was "centralized and drastically expanded" by the Islamic Republic. Under the Shah prisons had been administered separately by SAVAK, the urban police, and the gendarmerie. The new regime entrusted their management "to a supervisory council of three clerics." 
In Tehran, all four prisons where political dissidents were kept were expanded. Evin was enlarged "with two new blocks containing six wards and six hundred solitary cells" so it could accommodate "an additional 6000 inmates." Qezel Hesar was also expanded. Construction of the new Gohar Dasht prison had been started under the shah, it "was completed with hundreds of solitary cells and large wards housing more than 8000 inmates."
Despite all this new capacity, Iran's prisons "were seriously overcrowded by 1983". Komiteh prison, built for 500, had 1500 inmates; Evin Prison, built for 1200, had 15,000; Qezel Hesar, built for 10,000, had 15,000; and Gohar Dasht prison, built for 8000, had 16,000. Meanwhile, "Qasr, which had housed 1500, in 1978, had more than 6000." 
At least for political prisoners prison life was considerably harsher in the Islamic Republic than under the Pahlavis according to those who had tasted both. "One who survived both writes that four months under [warden] Ladjevardi took the toll of four years under SAVAK. Political prisoners were "incessantly bombarded with propaganda from all sides ... radio and closed-circuit television ... loudspeakers blaring into all cells even into solitary cells and `the coffins` [where some prisoners were kept] ... ideological sessions." Any reading material of a secular nature such as Western novelists, or even religious material that didn't agree ideologically with the Islamic Republic such as work by Ali Shariati was banned. At least in Evin prison the Persian Nowruz celebration was banned. In the prison literature of the Pahlavi era, the recurring words had been `boredom` and `monotony.` In that of the Islamic Republic, they were `fear`, `death`, `terror`, `horror,` and most frequent of all `nightmare` (kabos)." 
Iran Islamic Penal Laws Text in Farsi with link to Google translator
- Qanon-e Ta'zir (Discretionary Punishment Law). Ta'zir laws dealt not only with criminal law but this law gave judges the authority to execute and imprison those found guilty of crimes such as `declaring war on God` and `plotting with foreign powers.` It also gave them the power to sentence offenders to as many as 74 lashes to those who "`insult government officials,` `convene unlawful meetings,` sell alcoholic beverages, fix prices, hoard goods, kiss illicitly, fail to wear the proper hejab, and last but not least, `lie to the authorities.`" 
- Qanon-e Qesas (Retribution Law) This law codified other aspects of the sharia. It subdivided crimes into hadd - those against God - and those against fellow beings, especially other families. Some punishments are mandatory; others, discretionary. "Based on the notion of lex talionis, the Qesas Law calls for `an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life` - but with the understanding that a Muslim is more valuable than a non-Muslim, and a Muslim man more valuable than a Muslim woman." 
Modification to sharia
According to one source, the new laws of the Islamic Republic "modify the sharia in three significant ways."
- They give the state the "ultimate say" over the death penalty by allowing a new High Court[disambiguation needed ] to review death sentences passed by lower magistrates." In contrast, sharia in "its pure form" had no appeals system and gave local judges final say. "The regime justifies this innovation by claiming provincial judges need yet more time to obtain proper legal training."
- Laws allow circumstantial evidence to be used in deciding a case "under the rubric of `the judge's reasoning.`"
- Third, the legal system has introduced long-term imprisonment - which was also traditionally not used in sharia law - under `discretionary punishment.` Traditionalist judges, however, "continue to prefer corporal punishments ..." in sentencing.[clarification needed].
Criticism and human rights issues
Qesas (eye for an eye)
One secular critic has described the Qesas (Qisas) Law of the Islamic Republic as discriminating against women, non-Muslims, and the poor; as reviving horrific physical punishments; and assuming parts of the human body can be converted into money. Qesas punishments "threatens to create an army of handicapped victims. And it 'paves the way for judicial torture' by permitting the use of confessions."
A qesas case that was said to have "created an international uproar" following publicity by Amnesty International, was a 2011 sentence of blinding by an Iranian court against a man who had blinded a woman in Tehran.  In 2004, Majid Movahedi poured several liters of sulphric acid on the face of Ameneh Bahrami, blinding and severely disfiguring her, after she had spurned his proposals of marriage. Movahedi was tried in 2008 and found guilty, and for his sentence arrangements were made for Bahrami to inject "twenty drops of acid" into each of Movahedi's eyes while Movahedi was under anesthesia in a Tehran hospital. After appeals the punishment was set to be carried out on 14 May 2011, but has been postponed.
During the early, more tumultuous years of the Islamic Republic, a great number of political prisoners were executed. Between 1981 and 1985, 7,900 people were executed.
According to Amnesty International's 2004 report, at least 108 people were executed that year, most of whom having been political prisoners. Amnesty has also described cases in which adolescent children were sentenced to the death penalty. Though officially illegal, torture is often carried out in Iranian prisons, as in the widely publicized case of photojournalist Zahra Kazemi.
Like 74 other countries in the world, Iran carries out capital punishment. As a State party to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Iran has undertaken not to execute anyone for an offence committed when they were under the age of 18, but continues to carry such executions out, and is one of only six nations in the world to do so. According to Article 6 of the ICCPR, "Sentence of death shall not be imposed for crimes committed by persons below eighteen years of age.”
Homosexuality and adultery are legally criminal acts and punishable by life imprisonment or death for males, and the same sentences apply to convictions of treason and apostasy. Death sentences are always administered for those convicted of murder, rape, and child molestation. Those accused by the state of homosexual acts are routinely flogged and threatened with execution. Iran is one of seven countries in the world that carry the death penalty for homosexual acts: all of them justify this punishment with Islamic law. The Judiciary does not recognize the concept of sexual orientation, and thus from a legal standpoint there are no homosexuals or bisexuals - only heterosexuals "committing" homosexual acts.
From the beginning of the revolution until the mid-1980s transgender individuals were classified by the Judiciary as homosexual and thus subject to the same laws. The Judiciary began changing this policy and now classifies them as a distinct group with legal rights. Gender identity disorder is officially recognized in Iran today, and the Judiciary permits sexual reassignment surgery for those who can afford it. In the early 1960s, Ayatollah Khomeini had issued a ruling permitting gender reassignment, which has since been reconfirmed by Ayatollah Khamenei.
On 19 July 2005 two teenagers, Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni, aged 16 and 18, were publicly executed by hanging in Edalat (Justice) Square in the city of Mashhad. They had been convicted of raping a 13-year-old boy in 2004, and other charges included alcohol consumption, theft, and disturbing the peace. They were detained for 14 months in prison awaiting execution and sentenced to 228 lashes. Iranian officials complained that foreign and domestic media emphasized that the two were mere boys. “Instead of paying tribute to the action of the judiciary, the media are mentioning the age of the hanged criminals and creating a commotion that harms the interests of the state”. Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi condemned the hanging of Asgari and Marhoni as a violation of Iran's obligations under the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, which bans such executions.
Human rights activist and Nobel Prize winner Shirin Ebadi complains that the section of the penal code "devoted to blood money, diyeh, holds that if a man suffers an injury that damages his testicles, he is entitled to compensation equal to a women's life," and this failure to make account for individual differences or cases is unfair. It means, according to Ebadi, that "if a professional woman with a PhD is run over in the street and killed, and an illiterate thug gets one of the testicles injured in a fight, the value of her life and his damaged testicle are equal." 
Ebadi has also protested that while "the Islamic Revolution had anointed the Muslim family the centerpiece of its ideology of nation" and envisions a "restoration of traditional and authentic values" through women playing the role of "Muslim mother" staying home to care for "her multiplying brood," at the same time its family law automatically grants fathers custody "in the event of divorce," and makes "polygamy as convenient as a second mortgage." 
In November 2002, Hashem Aghajari, a university professor and veteran of the Iran-Iraq war, was convicted of apostasy and sentenced to death. But after a storm of protests from the general populace, reformist politicians, and human rights advocates, the sentence was later commuted to three years imprisonment, and Aghajari was paroled within months. Apostasy convictions are meted out not only for openly renouncing the religion of one's birth, but also for criticizing clerical rule (as in the case of Aghajari), defaming Islam, conversion from Islam, attempting to lead others away from Islam, among other reasons. As such, the legal definition of apostasy is subject to the individual interpretation of the judge. The traditional definition of apostasy only applies to those who are born into one of the legally recognized religions - Islam, Judaism, Christianity, and Zoroastrianism. The Bahá'í Faith, for example, is not legally recognized, and the adherents of that religion are considered apostate by virtue. Also see religious minorities in Iran.
Reformist politicians have made attempts in the past to challenge the death penalty, as well as to enforce the rule of law concerning the illegal use of torture in prisons. Journalists and human rights advocates in Iran who attempt to raise awareness of these issues often risk imprisonment and the death sentence themselves, such as in the case of Akbar Ganji. On 18 December 2003, President Mohammad Khatami stated, "I don't like the death penalty, although if there is one case where there should be an execution, the fairest case would be for Saddam. But I would never wish for that." 
Due to the power and scope of the institutions of velayat-e-faqih (Guardianship of the Clergy), which includes the Council of Guardians and the Office of the Supreme Leader, as well as the Judiciary, elected institutions such as the Majlis and the Office of the President are often unable to challenge laws because they are constitutional.
List of Heads
Name Born-Died Entered office Left office Nominated by Appointed by 1 Mohammad Beheshti 1928–1981 3 June 1979 28 June 1981(assassinated) Mehdi Bazargan Ruhollah Khomeini 2 Abdul-Karim Mousavi Ardebili 1926 - 28 June 1981 30 June 1989 Mohammad-Ali Rajai Ruhollah Khomeini 3 Mohammad Yazdii 1932 - 28 June 1981 30 June 1999 Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani Ali Khamenei 4 Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi 1948 - 30 June 1999 30 June 2009 Mohammad Khatami Ali Khamenei 5 Sadeq Larijani 1960 - 30 June 2009 Incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Ali Khamenei
- Blasphemy laws of Islamic Republic of Iran
- Censorship in Iran
- Evin Prison
- Labour and tax laws in Iran
- Legal systems of the world
- Prison 59
- Shahram Jazayeri-Arab
- Towhid Prison
- Human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran
- ^ a b Abrahamian, Ervand, History of Modern Iran, Cambridge U.P., 2008, p.177
- ^ Mottahedeh, Roy, The Mantle of the Prophet : Religion and Politics in Iran, One World, Oxford, 1985, 2000, p.208
- ^ a b c Mottahedeh, Roy, The Mantle of the Prophet : Religion and Politics in Iran, One World, Oxford, 1985, 2000, p.225
- ^ Mottahedeh, The Mantle of the Prophet, (1985, 2000), p.225
- ^ Davar Ardalan, My Name Is Iran: A Memoir (Henry Holt and Co., New York, 2007)
- ^ Mottahedeh, Roy, The Mantle of the Prophet : Religion and Politics in Iran, One World, Oxford, 1985, 2000, p.227
- ^ Janin, Hunt and Andre Kahlmeyer, Islamic Law, McFarland and Company, 2007, p.142
- ^ iranonline.com Iranian government constitution, The Judiciary
- ^ Human Rights Violations Under the Sharia'a, A Comparative Study of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran. Luiza Maria Gontowska, May 2005
- ^ Abrahamian, Ervand, Tortured Confessions by Ervand Abrahamian, University of California Press, 1999, p.125
- ^ Abrahamian, Ervand, Tortured Confessions by Ervand Abrahamian, University of California Press, 1999, p.134-5
- ^ Abrahamian, Tortured Confessions, (1999), p.135-6
- ^ source: Anonymous "Prison and Imprisonment", Mojahed, 174-256 (20 October 1983-8 August 1985)
- ^ Abrahamian, Tortured Confessions (1999), p.135-6, 167, 169
- ^ Review by Christoph Werner of Tortured Confessions: Prisons and Public Recantations in Modern Iran, in British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies © 2000, p.239-40
- ^ a b `The Complete Text of the Retribution Law` Iran Times, 6 March 1981. see also: 22 May 1981, 15 October 1982. quoted in Tortured Confessions by Ervand Abrahamian, University of California Press, 1999, p.133
- ^ Ervand Abrahamian, Tortured Confessions, 1999, p.134
- ^ "The Retribution Law, Kar International, June 1981, quoted in Abrahamian, Tortured Confessions (1999), p. 134.
- ^ IRAN: Court postpones eye-for-an-eye punishment for man who threw acid on woman May 16, 2011]
- ^ Iran’s 'eye for an eye' acid punishment postponed after outcry From ANI, Daily India, May 16 2011]
- ^ Abrahamian, Tortured Confessions (1999), p.169
- ^ 
- ^ 
- ^ 
- ^ 
- ^ The story of Maryam Hatoon Molkara (Iran)
- ^ Iran's sex-change operations
- ^ 
- ^ Laureate Condemns Hanging of Iranian Boys By Ali Akbar Dareini, Associated Press, July 26, 2005
- ^ Ebadi, Shirin, Iran Awakening, by Shirin Ebadi with Azadeh Moaveni, Random House New York, 2006, p.117
- ^ Ebadi, Iran Awakening, (2006) p.123
- ^ Profile: Hashem Aghajari, BBC News, 9 July, 2003
- ^ Death penalty quotes
- Profile of Judiciary System of Iran
- Islamic Republic of Iran Judiciary Public Relations Bureau
- The Judiciary of The Islamic Republic of Iran
- Iran's constitutional charter for the Judiciary
- Iranian American Bar Association, Detention Laws in Iran
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