Proposed Law Restricting Access to Lawyer Would Be Crushing Blow For Justice
A contemptible amendment to Iran’s code of criminal procedure could effectively strip detainees who are facing punishments such as the death penalty, life imprisonment and amputation, of the right to access a lawyer while they are under investigation, said Amnesty International.
An analysis of the bill published by the organization today details how, if passed, the amended law would permit the prosecution to immediately deprive individuals arrested on “national security” and certain other serious criminal charges of access to a lawyer for 20 days, which could be extended to cover the whole investigation phase. In Iran, those charged with “national security” offences include human rights defenders, journalists and political dissidents targeted solely for the peaceful exercise of their human rights.
“This is a regressive piece of draft legislation which would effectively remove the right to a lawyer in a wide range of criminal investigations and contravene Iran’s obligations under international law. If passed by MPs it would be a crushing blow to Iran’s already deeply defective justice system and could further consolidate patterns of torture and other ill-treatment against detainees to extract forced confessions during interrogations,” said Philip Luther, Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.
“Denial of prompt access to a lawyer is a serious violation of the right to a fair trial in all circumstances, but it is particularly shocking in cases where individuals are at risk of being sentenced to severe or irreversible punishments such as execution, amputation and life imprisonment.”
For decades Iranian authorities have failed to ensure that the right to access a lawyer is respected, particularly during the investigation phase.
The proposed amendment is intended to replace an already flawed provision in the Note to Article 48 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. This provision requires individuals facing charges related to “national security” and certain organized crimes to select their lawyer from a list of names approved by the head of the judiciary.
Iranian lawmakers involved with the legal and judicial parliamentary commission had announced in June 2018 that they would look into reforming this law to grant detainees access to a lawyer of their choosing, but instead they have taken a huge step backwards.
“Iranian lawmakers should focus their attention on introducing legal reforms that would strengthen rather than further undermine the right to a fair trial. The Iranian parliament must urgently revise this proposed amendment to bring it into line with Iran’s obligations under international human rights law and guarantee the right of all detainees to access a lawyer of their choice from the time of arrest and at all stages of judicial proceedings, including pre-trial detention, questioning and investigation,” said Philip Luther.
Iran’s legal and judicial parliamentary commission announced on 6 May 2019 that it had a prepared a draft amendment to the Note to Article 48 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which came into force in its current form in 2015. The proposed amendment is expected to be scheduled for a vote in Iran’s parliament in the coming weeks.