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Iranian Bar Associations: Struggle for Independence

These events could not remain hidden from the eyes of international observers. Reynaldo Galindo Pohl, the Special Representative of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights at the time, highlighted the issue in his report on the situation of human rights in the IRI and stated:

“The election of members of the Bar Council, which had been scheduled to take place on 9 October 1991, was postponed indefinitely. On 8 October 1991, an act on the reform of the Iranian Lawyers' Association was passed, empowering a "Reform Council" to dismiss certain lawyers from the legal profession before any election could be held. The members of the "Reform Council", appointed by the Head of the Judiciary, must dismiss lawyers who had served in certain government posts before the establishment of the Islamic Republic; individuals "who have participated in rebellions against the Islamic Republic or have acted effectively in support of unlawful groups"; and "members of pernicious sects or organizations whose aims are based on the denial of sacred religions”.[10]

He also expressed his concern about the independence of the legal profession in the IRI:

“…the continued absence of an independent association of lawyers in the Islamic Republic of Iran undermines the principle that lawyers must be allowed to carry out their professional duties without fear of intimidation and pressure from authorities.”[11]

The Law on Conditions for Obtaining the Attorney’s License -- 1997

In 1997, after the election of reformist President Seyed Mohammad Khatami, as a result of struggles of attorneys and their insistence on their professional rights, and also due to international pressure, specifically the emphasis of the Special Representative of the Commission on Human Rights,  the authorities concluded that an election of the Bar Association could be held. Previously, however, most likely as a cautionary measure by the government, the Law on Conditions for Obtaining the Attorney’s License had been adopted on  April 6, 1997 (hereinafter the “Law on Conditions”), which prescribed a new mechanism to control the free election of the Board of Directors. It was stipulated by the Law on Conditions that the competence of the candidates for the Bar Association's Board of Directors must be confirmed by the Disciplinary Court for Judges. In addition, according to articles 2 and 4 of the Law on Conditions a list of general (i.e. for all lawyers) and special (i.e. for the Directors) conditions were deemed required for the candidates:

  1. Belief and practical commitment to the rules and foundations of the holy Islam.[12]
  2. Belief and commitment to the Regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran, primacy of an Islamic jurist (velayet-e-faqih), and the Constitution
  3. Lack of a criminal record.
  4. Lack of any background of membership and cooperation with apostate groups and misleading and anti-Islam sects and groups whose charters are based on denial of divine religions.
  5. Lack of relationship with Pahlavi Regime and empowering the foundations of the Royal Regime.
  6. Lack of membership and support of illegal and anti-IRI cliques.
  7. Minimum 35 years of age.
  8. Minimum eight years of practising as an attorney or four years of serving as a judge plus four years of practising as an attorney subject to the condition that their incompetence is not declared by the Disciplinary Court.
  9. Lack of any disciplinary conviction of grade four or higher[13].
  10. 10.  No infamy for moral corruption (ill reputation)
  11. 11.  Not committing acts against dignity, honour and the prestige of attorneyship.[14]

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Lawyers, Right to counsel