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01/12/2011 Archive of reports

Report of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (2003)

Executive Summary

The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention visited the Islamic Republic of Iran from 15 to 27 February 2003 at the invitation of the Government. This was the first visit under the machinery established by the Commission on Human Rights since February 1996. The delegation visited a number of prisons, detention centres and police stations in Tehran, Shiraz and Esfahan and met government, legislative and judicial leaders, representatives of non-governmental organizations and families of prisoners.

The report analyses the prospects for reform of the administration of justice, in particular with regard to detention pending trial and visiting rights, and reform of the public prosecution service and criminal procedure. During the visit the Working Group noted that situations of arbitrary detention were essentially related to infringements of freedom of opinion and expression and many malfunctions in the administration of justice, in particular concerning due process of law, abuse of “solitary confinement”, the role of the revolutionary tribunals and clerical courts, the failure to take account of the principle of proportionality in passing sentence, and the consequences of the abolition of prosecutors between 1995 and 2002 on observance of the right to a fair trial.

In its recommendations the Working Group gives priority to the progressive transfer of authority from the revolutionary tribunals and clerical courts to the ordinary courts to reduce the proliferation of judicial decision-making bodies, review of the practice of solitary confinement, the progressive freeing of prisoners of conscience, guarantees of due process and reform of imprisonment for debt. The Working Group concludes with the hope that the current obstacles to the reforms needed will be removed with a view to strengthening the rule of law.