The Law Society of England and Wales Tuesday called for Iranian authorities to comply with international legal obligations to respect fundamental human rights. The call by the largest governing body of UK solicitors comes in the midst of increased arrests and arbitrary detentions of lawyers in Iran over the nationwide Mahsa Amini protests. This is the second time the Law Society has called for Iranian authorities to respect the rule of law.
According to the Law Society, Iranian authorities arrested 23 lawyers over the past month. The Law Society expressed concern that, once in custody, lawyers are mistreated. Lawyers have also been refused access to their clients, who are held on charges of participating in the Mahsa Amini protests. Law Society Vice President Nick Emmerson said, “The arrest and detention of these lawyers who work to uphold the rule of law is particularly concerning because it signals a further restriction of the right to legal representation.”
A recent JURIST dispatch from Iran detailed that the independence of the bar in Iran is seriously endangered due to threats and recently passed laws. Authorities in Iran’s judiciary recently established a parallel organization to the Iranian Bar Association. This parallel organization allows “judicial authorities [to] easily suspend lawyers from the practice of law.”
As a result of these actions, the Law Society called on Iranian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all arbitrarily arrested and detained lawyers and human rights defenders and ensure access to legal representation and fair trials.
The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Tuesday echoed the Law Society’s concerns. In a statement, the OHCHR condemned Iranian authorities for failing to respect international human rights law, which requires “respect and [assurance of] the rights to peaceful assembly and to freedom of expression.”
In September, nationwide protests erupted over the death of Mahsa Amini, who was arrested by Iranian authorities for wearing an “improper” hijab. Since the protests began, over 300 people have been killed across 25 of Iran’s 31 provinces. Thousands more protesters have been arrested. Protesters now face potential death penalties for their participation. UN experts condemned these actions as well.