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Iranian Bar Associations: Struggle for Independence

Clearly, some of the abovementioned conditions deal with personal views and opinions and therefore violate the fundamental freedom of belief and conscience. They are also broad and undefined and are not required to be proven in a court of law. Therefore they could be applied arbitrarily and according to personal and political views of the authorities. Such conditions have created grounds for preventing prominent attorneys and human rights defenders from joining the Board of Directors. Also, in abusing these conditions, the Judiciary can exert its control over the Board of Directors.

The body which can disqualify the candidates is the “Supreme Disciplinary Court for Judges”. Note 1 of article 4 of the Law on Conditions for Obtaining an Attorney’s License stipulates:

"The Supreme Disciplinary Court for Judges is the authority responsible for dealing with the competence of the candidates and it has a duty to make enquiries about their competencies, within a period of two months, from relevant legal bodies and announce the results; and, in the case of inquiry, the relevant legal bodies that may have records or information about the candidates are obliged to announce it.”

The usual procedure for the said inquiries from “the relevant legal authorities” is that the first branch of the Supreme Disciplinary Court for Judges makes inquiries of the Ministry of Intelligence, the Revolutionary Court, the Police, and other law enforcement and judicial bodies. Then the conditions of every candidate shall be examined and the final decision shall be announced to the Bar Association. Although in some cases those attorneys deemed disqualified, as well as Bar Associations, have, rarely successfully, protested against the decisions of the Court, there is no procedure prescribed in law that provides for these challenges.

In addition, according to note 3 of article 4 of the Law on Conditions, the Ministry of Justice was obliged to hold the election of the Bar Association’s Board of Directors under the new Law within six months after the Law was passed. Accordingly, in the election held on January 14, 1998 at the Palace of Justice in Tehran, almost half of the candidates were disqualified by the Supreme Disciplinary Court. The attorneys confirmed by the Court were individuals who were trusted by the security officials not to criticize the government and the competency of any lawyer acting defiantly was not approved. Despite this fact, the twentieth round of elections of the Bar since its establishment and the first after the 1979 Revolution was held and those confirmed by the Judiciary and then elected by attorneys began their duties in a month.

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Lawyers, Right to counsel