Day of the Endangered Lawyer 24th January 2024 14th edition – IRAN

JANUARY 24, 2024

Since 2010, the International Day of the Endangered Lawyer has been observed on 24 January around the globe. This date was chosen because, on 24 January 1977, four lawyers and one of their co-workers were murdered in Madrid, an event that came to be known as the Massacre of Atocha.

Each year, this day is organised by the Coalition for the Endangered Lawyer, a network of national and international legal organisations and bar associations.

The purpose of this International Day is to draw attention and awareness about lawyers across the globe who are being harassed, silenced, pressured, threatened, persecuted and tortured because of their profession.

The 2024 edition aims to shed some light on the challenges faced by lawyers in Iran.

The legal landscape in Iran has undergone significant changes since the 1979 Revolution, leading to the Islamization of laws and legal institutions. Female judges were dismissed, attorneys were disbarred, and the judiciary was dissolved, replaced by Islamic jurists and clerics. Lawyers faced challenges, including denied access to clients and court files.

In 1984, the Iranian Bar Association (IBA) reopened under a supervisor, violating the Law of Independence. Gholamhossein Mohseni-Eje’I's appointment linked the IBA leadership to the Ministry of Intelligence, emphasizing a return to strict Sharia law. His later roles raised concerns about violations of prisoner rights and alleged links to political murders.

Subsequent legal developments included changes to attorney appointment rights and the introduction of a Law on Conditions for Obtaining the Attorney’s Licence. The IBA faced challenges with elections being postponed and the establishment of a parallel body, the 'Legal Advisors of the Judiciary,' seen as an attempt to neutralise the IBA.

In 2012, a Draft Bill increased government control over the IBA and introduced a Supervisory Commission. The bill was protested by human rights lawyers and suspended before the 2013 elections but resurfaced in amended versions in 2014, emphasising government control.

In June 2023, the Iranian Parliament initiated an investigation against the IBA, sparking debates about parliamentary rights and financial independence. The IBA, being financially independent, raised questions about the legitimacy of the investigation. The situation reflects ongoing challenges to the independence of the legal profession and judiciary in Iran.

Nowadays, the current challenges faced by Iranian lawyers include obstacles to the independence of the legal profession, such as the control over appointments to the Councils of Bar Associations, restrictive procedures preventing the issuance of lawyers’ licences, supervision and regulation of lawyers by the judiciary and a lack of judicial independence, among others. Moreover, Iranian lawyers are met with harassment, intimidation, criminal prosecutions, arrest and murder. Additionally, as many civil society organisations and the media have reported, the pressure on human rights defenders and lawyers has intensified since the protests concerning the death of Mahsa Amini in 2022.

In this context, a report was drafted about the situation of lawyers in Iran which includes a call to the international community and the Iranian government to improve the position of lawyers in Iran.

To learn more about the Day of the Endangered Lawyer, please visit the website here.

To find out more about the situation in Iran, please read the full report here.

To read the joint statement, kindly refer to this link, and for the petition, please see here.

Here is a list of some of the initiatives and events organised in relation to the Day of the Endangered Lawyer 2024:

The AIJA Human Rights Committee endorses the report, joint statement and petition and encourages all AIJA members to participate in any of these activities around the Day of the Endangered Lawyer 2024.