encouragement to “violate public morals” 8, as well as satire.9 Similar vaguely worded provisions
criminalise acts such as swearing at10 or insulting11 “the Great Prophet of Islam”, as well as
“sowing corruption on earth”12 with the death penalty.
All the aforementioned restrictions fail to meet requirements of international standards, including
the principles of legality and requirements that limitations must be necessary, proportionate and
in pursuit of one of a limited number of narrowly-drawn legitimate aims.13 Consequently, the
current Iranian legal framework grants authorities’ significant discretion to impose overbroad
and vague restrictions on individuals’ rights in contravention of the Iran’s international human
rights obligations. As freedom of expression, assembly and association are central to the work of
HRDs, they are particularly exposed to the risk of facing criminal charges solely for the exercise
of their peaceful professional work. Such risk is confirmed in practice, as Iranians authorities
regularly rely on the Islamic Penal Code to prosecute HRDs.14
In addition to threats of criminalisation of peaceful dissent, the Iranian legal framework for legal
procedures largely does not comply with international standards of fair trial and due process,15
which leads to the application of harsh sentences following unfair trials.16 One of the most
telling examples of Iranian law failing to protect the right to a fair trial, as per Article 14 of the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Right, is the lack of prompt access to legal counsel
of one’s choosing.
The guarantee of the right to legal defence and the right to choose a lawyer are enshrined in the
Constitution17 and the Code of Criminal Procedure of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which also
permit the defendant to “demand the presence of a lawyer from the start of detention.”18
However, in many reported cases, especially those relating to national security charges (which
often concern HRDs), defendants have reported seeing their lawyer for the first time on the day

8

Article 639 Islamic Penal Code 2013, https://iranhrdc.org/islamic-penal-code-of-the-islamic-republic-of-iran-book-five/
Article 700 Islamic Penal Code 2013, https://iranhrdc.org/islamic-penal-code-of-the-islamic-republic-of-iran-book-five/
10
Article 262 Islamic Penal Code 2013, https://iranhrdc.org/english-translation-of-books-i-ii-of-the-new-islamic-penal-code/
11
Article 513 Islamic Penal Code 2013, https://iranhrdc.org/islamic-penal-code-of-the-islamic-republic-of-iran-book-five/
12
Article 286 Islamic Penal Code 2013.
13
Article 19, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
14
Joint submission to the Human Rights Committee 2020, ARTICLE 19, Small Media, Human Rights Activists in Iran Impact
Iran, https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/Treaties/CCPR/Shared%20Documents/IRN/INT_CCPR_ICS_IRN_42315_E.pdf
15
See more: Flawed Reforms: Iran’s New Code of Criminal Procedure, Amnesty International, 2016,
https://www.amnesty.org/download/Documents/MDE1327082016ENGLISH.PDF
16
Abdorrahman Boroumand Center (ABC), Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (IHRDC) Impact Iran, Human Rights
Activists in Iran, NGO submission to the Human Rights Committee, 2020,
https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/Treaties/CCPR/Shared%20Documents/IRN/INT_CCPR_ICS_IRN_42313_E.pdf
17
Article 35 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, English translation, https://irandataportal.syr.edu/wpcontent/uploads/constitution-english-1368.pdf
18
Articles 48 and 190, Code of Criminal Procedure of the Islamic Republic of Iran (2015) original version
http://dotic.ir/print/5584
9

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