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The Iran Judiciary's Illegal Directive on Financial Corruption: A Legal Analysis from ABC

Abdorrahman Boroumand Center
Abdorrahman Boroumand Center
August 20, 2018

On August 11, 2018, against the backdrop of popular protest occasioned by dire economic circumstances, Iran judiciary chief Sadegh Larijani addressed a letter to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei citing “economic war” waged by enemies and requesting permission for “special measures” for “swift and decisive conduct” with those who disrupt the country’s economic system. Khamenei assented to Larijani’s proposal the same day, emphasizing the importance of “swiftly and farly” punishing so-called “economically corrupt” actors.

The following legal analysis, prepared by Aborrahman Boroumand Center legal experts, explains how Larijani’s directive violates due process safeguards provided for in Iranian law.

Per the Iranian Constitution, the Majles is the only authority empowered to approve laws. Principle 58 holds that “The legislative power operates through the Islamic Consultative Assembly that consists of the elected representatives of the people. Its legislatures, after going through stages that will be specified in the following articles, are communicated for enforcement to the executive and judiciary powers.” The Constitution foresees only one extraordinary means of making law: referenda. Article 59 holds that “In considering vital economic, political, social, and cultural issues, it is possible that the legislative power be exercised through referendum or reference to direct public vote. The request to appeal to public votes must be approved by two thirds of the entire representatives of the Assembly.” As is clear from the foregoing, no authority besides the Majles and the direct popular vote has the power to make law. In Principle 110 of the Constitution, which enumerates the powers of the Supreme Leader, there is no mention of legislative privilege. Thus the governmental directives on lawmaking which have been, on some occasions, issued by the Supreme Leader, are expressly contrary to the constitution. In the Supreme Leader’s recent directive, he has authorized treatment of those accused of economic corruption which falls outside the law. In a letter the Judiciary chief addressed to the Supreme Leader (to which the Supreme Leader assented in his August 11 governmental directive), the following points appear which are at odds with Iranian law, including the Code of Criminal Procedure:  

1. Cases of those accused of financial corruption are to be tried in special branches of the Revolutionary Courts to be empaneled in Tehran. Such cases will be referred by the First Deputy of the Judiciary, and at the judgment of the head of the Judiciary in cases of emergency they may be filed at provincial legal centers. This contradicts Iranian law, which holds that crimes ought to be tried in the jurisdiction in which they are alleged to have been committed.  

2. All windows of time which must be observed in the legal process (e.g. announcement of verdict or summons or the time frame for appeal) in these economic corruption cases are not to exceed five days. The Code of Criminal Procedure, however, stipulates that defendants have 20 days to contest any ruling.

3. Wherever a judge identifies failures of investigation, the judge himself may complete the investigation. Per the law, however, if investigative failures are discovered, the case should be sent to the Public Prosecution Office for completion.

4. Any sort of reduction or suspension in the punishments of those accused of economic corruption or disruption is forbidden. The parts of the Islamic Penal Code which pertain to sentence reduction and suspension are given in a general way, however: crimes of economic corruption are not exceptionally and absolutely excluded from these mechanisms.

5. In the trying of all crimes of economic corruption, should sufficient evidence exist and at the determination of the judge, a temporary detention order may be issued until the legal process has concluded and a final verdict is handed down. This order of temporary detention cannot be contested before other legal authorities. Any change to it must be made by the court which ordered it. This is contrary to Code of Criminal Procedure, which holds that temporary detention orders can only be issued for crimes with certain punishments and can be contested.

6. All verdicts issued by this court other than execution are final and must be implemented. Death sentences are appealable to the Supreme Court within ten days. This is contrary to the Code of Criminal Procedure, which specifies that all verdicts can be contested or appealed at Appeals Courts or the Supreme Court within 20 days.