Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran




Iranian Judiciary in Urgent Need of Reform

2015 is the 30th anniversary of the adoption of the Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary by the United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of and its endorsement by UN General Assembly. To mark this occasion, and in order to emphasize the importance of the independence and competence of judges for the implementation of justice, the Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation (ABF), having previously translated into Persian and published the Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary, has published the Persian translation of a new text by the Due Process of Law Foundation (DPLF) regarding the necessary criteria for the selection of high-ranking judges. The translation is complemented with a legal analysis of the process of selection of judges in the Islamic Republic of Iran and with an introduction by the Iranian human rights defender and Nobel Laureate, Shirin Ebadi.  

In her introduction, Ms. Ebadi clearly states why the selection of impartial and qualified judges is a crucial cornerstone of a just judiciary:

“One of the tangible outcomes of democracy is the independence of the judiciary, a branch that can distinguish right from wrong with the utmost honesty, free from political dealings, and unencumbered by governmental policies.

The independence of the judiciary is conditional upon the presence of judges who have been rightly and correctly selected for the profession, who possess sufficient specialized knowledge, and whose performance can be monitored by the judiciary branch officials to ensure that these judges actually have the possibility [and the means] to carry out justice.”

ABF’s legal analysis identifies a myriad of problems when it comes to the method of selecting judges in Iran, including its arbitrariness. In several areas, this method fails to meet the minimum standards laid out in the DLPF guideline and creates serious obstacles in the way of an independent, fair, and accountable judicial system:

  • Judges are selected based on arbitrary criteria, which are not determined in advance.
  • When specified, the requirements for qualification for the judiciary are overly broad and ambiguous.
  • The criteria for selection explicitly allow and even call for discrimination based on gender, religion and political beliefs or activities.
  • The system allows for the selection of candidates who have not studied law.
  • The mechanisms through which judges are appointed and retain their appointments deprive them of judicial independence.
  • Judges do not play a role in the administration of the judicial system.  

Judges play a key role in the administration of justice. With more than 200 acts punishable by death, the absence of sufficient legal guarantees of due process, an absurd lack of accountability and transparency in the judiciary, and the persecution of those who call for justice in the Islamic Republic of Iran, the role of Judges is not a trivial matter. Their incompetence, corruption and lack of independence cost lives in the thousands. The number of executions following proceedings that lack the minimum standards of due process is at its highest in more than two decades, with more than 1,000 executions being carried out this year.

It is high time that the Islamic Republic comprehensively and extensively reform its system for judicial appointments in order to bring them in line with the international standards that are typical of other nations across the globe.

Read the Due Process of Law Foundation’s report, Guidelines for a Transparent and Merit-Based System for the Appointment of High-Level Judges (pdf) here.

Read ABF’s legal analysis of the Islamic Republic’s system of selecting judges along with Dr. Shirin Abadi’s introduction here.

Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation
December 14, 2015