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Iranian Bar Associations: Struggle for Independence

Although the Bill received some criticisms by the Bar Associations and attorneys, the following events convinced them that this Bill, with some modifications, might be the best possible option. However, the Bill of 153 MPs was later stopped as the Judiciary was obliged by Parliament to prepare a new Bill. In fact, when in 2009 the “Repeated Article 187” which aimed to renew the old article 187 was rejected by Members of Parliament to be included in the Law of the Fifth Program of Economic, Social and Cultural Development, instead, in article 212 of the very Law, they obliged the Judiciary to prepare and propose the Bill of Comprehensive Law of Attorneyship.

In early 2012 it was revealed that, without the knowledge or agreement of the Bar Associations, the “Bill of Formal Attorneyship” has been prepared by the Judiciary and would be submitted, through the Ministry of Justice and the Government, to Parliament in due course. The Bill, which was subsequently leaked and then published by the Bar Associations, appears to be intended to wipe out independent Bar Associations in Iran. The Bill is quite similar to the “Regulations of the Law of Independence of the Bar Associations” which was formerly adopted by the Head of the Judiciary but later suspended following the objections of the Bar Associations. In fact, the key provisions of the Regulations which would severely damage the independence of the Bar have been kept in the Bill, and in an even more extreme form.

In an interview, the Parliamentary and Legal Deputy of the Ministry of Justice confirmed that the Bill of Formal Attorneyship was submitted to the Government and is being examined by the Commission of Government Bills. He declared that the Bill is aimed mainly to increase the supervision over the Bar Associations but their independence under this Bill would be 100 percent.[20] In response, the President of the Union of Bar Associations interpreted the statement about the full independence of the Bar under the new Bill as sarcasm and lamented that the recent Bill would leave no independence at all.[21]

Below, the controversial articles of the Bill of Formal Attorneyship, which have been objected to by the Bar Associations and attorneys, will be examined. Although the contents of the articles are self-explanatory and clearly show the intention of the drafters to end the independence of Bar Associations and attorneys, some comments are added to provide relevant background and highlight the main areas of conflict.

The first change proposed in the Bill (article 1) is to replace the current title of the Bar Associations with the “Organization of Formal Attorneys”. In addition to the fact that it, unnecessarily, replaces the standard and internationally accepted title of the Bar Associations, it resembles the other governmental and judicial organizations such as the State Organization of Registration of Documents and Real States or Organization of Registration of Personal Status, etc. Accordingly, the Union of Bar Associations would be replaced with the High Council of Attorneyship. So, it seems that the drafters of the Bill could not even tolerate a title that would possibly imply the notion of independence and serve as a reminder of the era of independence of the Bar Associations.

Probably, the most significant and dangerous change proposed in the Bill is the idea of formation of a Supervision Commission (hey’at-e-nezārat), which shall consist of 7 members all of whom would be appointed by the Head of the Judiciary. Article 25 of the Bill provides:

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