Iran - Judicial system

The overthrow of the shah and the approval in 1980 of a constitution making Iran an Islamic state have radically changed Iran's judicial system. The 1980 constitution was revised in 1989.

In August 1982, the supreme court invalidated all previous laws that did not conform with the dictates of Islam, and all courts set up before the 1979 revolution were abolished in October 1982. An Islamic system of punishment, introduced in 1983, included flogging, stoning, and amputation for various crimes. There are two different court systems: civil courts and revolutionary courts.

The judicial system is under the authority of the religious leader (faqih). A supreme judicial council responsible to the faqih oversees the supreme court, which has 33 branches, each branch being presided over by two judges. The Ministry of Justice oversees law courts in the provinces.

The revolutionary courts try cases involving political offenses, narcotics trafficking and "crimes against God." Although the constitution guarantees a fair trial, the revolutionary courts provide almost no procedural safeguards. The trials in revolutionary courts are rarely held in public and there is no guarantee of access to an attorney.

Elements of the prerevolutionary judicial system continue to be applied in common criminal and civil cases. In these cases the right to a public trial and the benefit of counsel are generally respected. In 1995 the government began implementing a law authorizing judges to act as prosecutor and judge in the same case.

The constitution states that "reputation, life, property, (and) dwelling (s)" are protected from trespass except as "provided by law." However, in practice, security forces do not respect these provisions.

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