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Iranian Bar Associations: Struggle for Independence

It is clear that, in passing this law, Parliament planned to open the doors of the Bar Association to more intervention of the Judiciary in order to disqualify the candidates who stand against human rights abuses and do not remain silent about the violation of people’s basic rights. In doing so, the control of the Judiciary over the Bar Association was legalized and the independence of the Bar was seriously damaged. The Bar Associations which were responsible for the discernment of competence of the candidates of the Board lost their authority. In fact, it would be true to say that until 1997 the independence of the Bar Associations was denied in practice, while in 1997 it was attacked in law.

This became a routine for the next rounds of the election. Each time, a series of candidates— mostly those engaged with human rights cases—were disqualified by the Supreme Disciplinary Court of Judges without any specified reason. In the most recent example of the abuse of the Judiciary from the abovementioned Law, while 118 attorneys became candidates for the 27th round of election of the Central Bar association’s Board of Directors, on February 8, 2012 the Supreme Disciplinary Court for Judges only confirmed the competence of 88 individuals. After the protests by the then Board of Directors and the candidates, the competence of 3 more candidates was confirmed.[15] In the 26th round, too, from a total of 79 candidates, in the first occasion the competence of 28 attorneys, including Seyed Mohammad Jandaghi, the then President of the Bar Association, was rejected; and after the Bar Association and the disqualified candidates protested, the competence of an additional 15 was confirmed.

Legal Advisors of the Judiciary (Article 187) 

In 2001, by virtue of article 187 of the Law of Third Economic, Social and Cultural Development Plan, the Iranian government created a new body of lawyers known as “Legal Advisors of the Judiciary”. Article 187 of the aforementioned Law provided:

 “In order to provide the public with required legal protections and to maintain the public’s rights and facilitate the public access to legal services, the Judiciary shall be authorised to confirm the competence of the graduates of law who shall be granted licences for the establishment of legal advisory institutes.
In order to pursue the legal affairs of the applicants, the presence of the said advisors in the courts, as well as governmental and non-governmental organizations, shall be authorized … The relevant regulations of this article … shall be passed by the Head of the Judiciary.” 

The effect of this provision is that legal advisors are authorised to present cases in court like Iranian Bar Association attorneys. Similarly, the Legal Advisors’ Centre operates in parallel with the Iranian Bar Associations, but unlike attorneys, legal advisors work directly under the supervision of the Judiciary. According to article 3 of the Regulations of the article 187 (adopted by the Head of the Judiciary on September 4, 2002), the Legal Advisors’ Centre has been established and functions under the supervision of, and as a subsidiary to, the Legal Deputy of the Judiciary. The Centre has its own examination and traineeship process and has the ability to issue permits to practise to legal advisors. In contrast to the independent process for the renewal of practising permits for Iranian Bar Association lawyers, permits to practise for legal advisors are renewable annually with the approval of the Judiciary.

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Lawyers, Right to counsel