Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

Promoting tolerance and justice through knowledge and understanding

Iran Urged to Stop Infringements on the Independence of the Legal Profession by Global Lawyers’ Body

International Bar Association
Iran Human Rights Documentation Center
March 25, 2013
Press Release

Iran urged to stop infringements on the independence of the legal profession by global lawyers’ body

The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) urges Iran’s government to withdraw a proposed bill to effectively bring the Iranian Bar Association under the control of the judiciary, removing any remaining independence afforded to the legal profession.

Mark Ellis, Executive Director of the International Bar Association (IBA) said, ‘We remind the Government of Iran that it is a signatory to a number of international instruments which stipulate it to be the duty of government to ensure that conditions are met for bar associations to independently uphold professional standards and ethics.’

Details of the most controversial provisions within the draft Bill have been outlined in an open letter signed by 35 Iranian lawyers and include: Articles 25 and 30, which provide for the:

  • Establishment of a new ‘Supervision Commission’, controlled by the judiciary, with the power to determine the competence of lawyers to practise;
  • Suspension and revocation of licenses to practise;
  • Administration of bar exams; and
  • Constitution of the Bars’ board of directors.

Under Article 123, decisions made by the Commission cannot be challenged, and under Article 122, the properties and assets of the Bar will be transferred to the authority of the Commission.

Referencing specific international laws, Dr Ellis added, ‘The proposed Bill contravenes international standards and consequently violates Iran’s obligations under international law, particularly, the United Nations (UN) Basic Principles of the Roles of Lawyers. Principle 15 states that lawyers must be able to perform their professional functions without undue interference, while Principle 24 emphasises the rights of lawyers to form self-governing professional associations. These Principles, which Iran ratified, without reservation, are at the core of lawyers being able to effectively defend clients. They are the reason why, as the global voice of the legal profession, we extend our support to the Iranian Bar Association, in fighting this bill and restoring effective self-governance'.

The draft Bill together with the imprisonment of several respected human rights defenders, including Nasrin Sotoudeh and the 2012 IBA Human Rights Awardee Abdolfattah Soltani, prompts comment from Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, Co-Chair of the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) who said, ‘The new draft Bill is of grave concern to the IBAHRI. It disregards the imperative for lawyers to practice freely and fairly, which is essential to the promotion and protection of human rights and the rule of law within Iran.’ She added, ‘An independent bar association and legal profession function as indispensable guarantees for the protection of human rights and access to justice. Lawyers cannot adequately and properly perform their duties while subject to external interference and controls over their ability to practice. The IBAHRI urges Iran’s gover nment to withdraw this Bill, without delay.’


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About the International Bar Association

the global voice of the legal profession

The International Bar Association (IBA), established in 1947, is the world’s leading organisation of international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Its membership includes over 50,000 lawyers and more than 200 bar associations and law societies spanning every continent. The IBA influences the development of international law reform and shapes the future of the legal profession throughout the world.

The IBA’s Human Rights Institute works to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just Rule of Law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide