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UN experts urge Iran to respect and protect lawyers

International Day of the Endangered Lawyer, 24 January 2023

22 January 2024

GENEVA (22 January 2024) – UN experts* today hailed lawyers in Iran for their courageous commitment to the rule of law and their persistent efforts to practice their profession independently and with integrity despite enormous obstacles and pressures. They issued the following statement ahead of the International Day of the Endangered Lawyer:

“Time and again, lawyers in Iran have risen to the challenge and suffered the consequences.

In the aftermath of the “Women, Life, Freedom” protests following the death in police custody of Jina Mahsa Amini, Iranian authorities arrested many thousands of individuals without warrants, held them in deplorable conditions, and sought the death penalty for some protesters. It is shocking that at least eight protesters have been executed after summary, arbitrary and sham trials. Despite the evident danger, many Iranian lawyers provided—or attempted to provide—legal support to protesters facing charges.

The brave women and men of the legal profession have been targeted with intimidation and harassment, including arbitrary arrest and disbarment for seeking to ensure that those arrested and charged have access to their right to legal defence.

More broadly, lawyers in Iran often work in peril within a legal profession that has been restricted by rules and regulations that contravene international standards relating to the free and independent exercise of the legal profession and the right to fair trial. Although the Bar Association is one of the oldest professional organisations in Iran, the Government has targeted this historically independent institution through structural changes, regulations, and investigations.

The legal profession and its free exercise are an essential element of the rule of law, the protection of human rights and the functioning of an independent judicial system. It contributes to ensuring access to justice, oversight of state power, protection of due process and judicial guarantees.

The situation of lawyers affects the right to a fair trial for all people in the Islamic Republic of Iran. We are very concerned about repeated reports of breaches of the right of detainees to legal counsel of their choice and their right to consult with a lawyer – both of which are key elements of due process.

Iran must put in place all appropriate measures to ensure that lawyers can play their crucial role in the legal system and that they are not subjected to, or threatened with, prosecution or any administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognised professional duties, standards and ethics.”


Read the full statement.

*The experts: Ms. Margaret Satterthwaite, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Mr. Javaid Rehman,  Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The Experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent of any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Islamic Republic of Iran

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