Iran has one of the highest rates of death sentence in the world and is therefore always condemned by the Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly. Death sentences in Iran are issued by Criminal Court Number One, the Revolutionary Court, the Military Court, and the Special Court of Clergies.
One means of objecting to the issued verdict is to request an appeal. According to law, appeal judgment is “deciding whether or not the verdict under appeal conforms to the laws of religious jurisprudence and legislation”. For criminal convictions, appeal is a request for change of the verdict issued by the court of first instance. Apart from the cases in which the convict can request a retrial from the Supreme Court, in some cases, it is possible to appeal against the judgment or acquittal in the Supreme Court according to the Code of Criminal Procedure.
Criminal Court Number One
Criminal Court Number One is established in each provincial capital, as discerned by the head of the judiciary in the jurisdiction of the cities. In areas where this court does not exist, cases are heard in the closest Criminal Court Number One within the jurisdiction of that province.
This court is composed of one presiding judge and two counselors (three judges), but it can officially convene when two members are present. In Criminal Court Number One and in all cases where the trial is held before several judges, the majority vote of all members shall matter and the opinions of the minority must be reasonably included in the case.
With the enactment of the new law on criminal procedure, the provincial criminal courts were removed from the judiciary and transformed to criminal court number one according to Note 3 of Article 296. In addition to investigating the crimes set forth in Article 302, the criminal court number one located in the provincial capitals also investigates political and press offenses in accordance with Article 305. As per Article 308 of the same law, the court also hears the charges of ministers’ advisors, the highest officials of governmental organizations, chairs of public companies and institutions, non-governmental public institutions, directors general, governors, directors of institutions, government departments and public non-governmental institutions within provinces and cities, university chancellors, chairs of higher education centers, and mayors of provincial capitals and districts.
It should be noted that if any crime occurs in any province, the relevant province will investigate the attributed charges. Another condition set for such a case is that the investigation of these charges should not be within the competence of other authorities according to certain laws.
Investigation of crimes within the jurisdiction of the Criminal Court Number One
According to Article 302 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the following crimes are within the jurisdiction of Criminal Court Number One:
1. Crimes punishable by death: These are the crimes that are punishable by Qisas (blood vengeance), execution and stoning.
2. Crimes punishable by life imprisonment: This means a punishable theft that has happened for the third time.
3. Crimes punishable by amputation: This means committing theft for the first or second time, which is subject to the determined punishment.
4. Intentional crimes against physical health amounting to half of the full blood money (Diyya) or more.
5. Crimes subject to 1st to 3rd degree discretionary punishment, which are as follows:
Pursuant to Article 303, the following crimes shall be investigated in the Revolutionary Court. A. Crimes against foreign and national security, Moharebeh (waging war against God), corruption on the Earth, insolence, collusion and conspiracy against the Islamic Republic of Iran, armed fight, arson, destruction of property in order to oppose the regime B. Insulting the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Supreme Leader C. All crimes related to narcotics, psychoactive drugs, their ingredients, and the trafficking of weapons, ammunition and controlled substances. D. Other cases that are under the jurisdiction of this court according to certain laws.
As per Article 297, the Revolutionary Court shall convene in the presence of a presiding judge and two counselors in order to try the crimes mentioned earlier in paragraphs (A), (B), (C) and (D) of Article 302 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. To investigate other crimes, a court will convene in the presence of a substitute president or judge or by a counselor.
Article 5 – The required number of revolutionary courts shall be established in the capital of each province and in districts determined by the head of the judiciary. These courts shall be established under the supervision and administrative management of the jurisdiction and shall investigate the following crimes:
1. All crimes against foreign and national security, Moharebeh (waging war against God) or corruption on the Earth
2- Insulting the status of Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran and Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
3- Conspiracy against the Islamic Republic of Iran, armed fight, terror and destruction of organizations in order to oppose the regime
4- Espionage for foreigners.
5 – All crimes related to trafficking and drugs.
6- Disputes related to Article 49 of the Constitution.
By the virtue of Article 19 of the Law on the Establishment of Public and Revolutionary Courts, the following verdicts can be appealed. The appellate court can overrule the verdict or reinvestigate the case if it finds the verdict erroneous or believes that the court of first instance was incompetent.
A) Verdicts: 1- Execution and stoning. 2 – Hudud (Islamic Punishments), Qisas (blood vengeance or retaliation for body organs). 3- Forfeiture and confiscation of property. 4 – Diyya (financial compensation) over 1/5 of full financial compensation amount. 5 – If the maximum legal punishment for the crime amounts to more than 6 months of imprisonment, flogging or a fine over one million Rials. 6- A verdict that demands more than one million Rials. 7- A verdict that is not valid according to the confession heard in court. 8- A verdict that does not conform to the opinion of one or more experts whose opinion has been accepted in writing by the parties. 9- The verdict concerning the derivatives of the dispute if the verdict of the main dispute can be appealed. 10 – Judgment on marriage, divorce, termination of marriage and marriage portion. 11- Judgment on lineage, will, executor appointment, endowment, endowment of 1/3 of properties, entailment and guardianship. 12- Verdict on incapacity and emancipation of a minor.
B) The following judgments of the verdict of the main dispute can be appealed: 1- The decision to annul the petition or reject the petition, issued by the court. 2- Termination of the lawsuit or not hearing the lawsuit. 3- When charges are about to be dropped. 4- The decision on the incompetence of one of the parties to the lawsuit.
Contradiction between the competence of the Revolutionary Court and the Criminal Court Number One
When there is a conflict between the competence of Revolutionary Court and the Criminal Court Number One, the Revolutionary Court shall investigate the matter. However, cases that fall within the competence of the Criminal Court Number One do not negate the jurisdiction of the Revolutionary Court.
For instance investigating the crime of corruption on the Earth lies with the Revolutionary Court. According to Article 286 of the Islamic Penal Code, the punishment for corruption on earth is the death penalty, which leads to eradications of ones’ life. According to Article 302 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, a crime whose punishment leads to death is within the jurisdiction of the Criminal Court Number One. Therefore, the question that arises is that which of the two above-mentioned authorities (Revolutionary Court or Criminal Court Number) will be in charge of investigating the crime of corruption on earth, the punishment of which is eradication of life? The answer is that the competent authority in this case is the Revolutionary Court.
One judicial entity that is separate from the armed forces is a special judicial authority called the Judicial Organization of the Armed Forces. This organ investigates the crimes of military forces. The Judicial Organization of the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran is a part of Iranian Judiciary. It is the only specialized judicial authority set in the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and it is established in the provincial capitals of the country. According to Article 172 of the Constitution, military tribunals are established in accordance with the law to investigate crimes pertinent to certain military or disciplinary duties of members of the army, gendarmerie, police (law enforcement forces) and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. However, for their general crimes or crimes they commit as judicial agents, they are tried in public courts.
At the time being, the competence of the Judicial Organization of the Armed Forces is based on the resolutions passed by the Islamic Consultative Assembly, the Expediency Council, and the certain permissions issued by the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic, Ali Khamenei. The jurisdiction of this organization concerns the certain crimes committed by military and law enforcement forces and members of the Armed Forces, crimes discovered during the investigation of military crimes, the crimes of Iranian prisoners and non-Iranian prisoners inside Iran, and crimes related to the duties of the personnel of the Ministry of Intelligence.
The investigations have two phases in the Judicial Organization of the Armed Forces. Therefore, reports or complaint are submitted by the relevant authorities or ordinary people, and a relevant case is first opem in the military court and the preliminary investigation is conducted by an investigator or assistant prosecutor under the supervision of the provincial military prosecutor. If there are sufficient reasons to commit the crime, the case is submitted to the military court after the indictment is issued (drawn up the prosecutor). After referring the case to the court branches, the mentioned court issues an appropriate verdict after holding the trial. The verdicts issued by the military courts can be appealed against in higher judicial authorities and the Supreme Court of the country due to the importance of the crime, pursuant to Law on Appeal Courts enacted in 1993.
By the virtue of Note 2 of Article 307, the charges of military and law enforcement officers (the subject of Article 307), which are within the jurisdiction of the Judicial Organization of the Armed Forces, may be investigated by military courts number 1 and 2 in Tehran. It should be noted that the general crimes of military and law enforcement personnel enjoying the rank of brigadier general or higher, or the holders of the rank of second brigadier general working alongside army generals or brigadier generals are within the jurisdiction of Tehran criminal courts. Crimes committed by officials who are not mentioned in Article 307 and its notes are investigated by the Judicial Organization of the Armed Forces. The new Code of Criminal Procedure does not include the establishment of a special legal body to investigate the crimes of the armed forces and the military personnel. These crimes are dealt with in accordance with the relevant laws.
Military courts are divided into military court one and two. Pursuant to Article 3 of the Penal Law on the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran, crimes punishable by 10 years or more of imprisonment or death sentence are heard in the Military Court One, and less serious crimes are punished by the Military Court Two.
Military Court One consists of a substitute prosecutor or a presiding judge and a counselor. The right to vote belongs solely to the substitute prosecutor or a presiding judge.
Note – In Military Court One, the substitute prosecutor or a presiding judge could be a civilian or a military force. The counselor is chosen from military jurists and is obliged to carefully study and review the case before court decision, and to state his views in writing.
According to Article 5 of the Code of Judicial Procedure of the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the opinions of Military Court One leading to the death penalty or ten years imprisonment (or more) shall be reviewed by the Supreme Court, whether or not the convict or the prosecutor objects to the verdict, with due observation of the provisions of Articles 287 and 288 of the Law on Amendment of Articles of Criminal Procedure.
Note: Whenever a crime is within the jurisdiction of Military Court One on the basis of its legal punishment, and when after the end of the trial, it is found that its punishment is less than death sentence or ten years of imprisonment, Military Court One will proceed to issue a verdict on it.
Special Court of Clergies
Special Court of Clergies has certain structures including the prosecutor’s office and the court of law. This court is entirely independent of Iranian Judiciary with its distinct rules of procedure, prosecution, crime detection, verdicts, investigations and even budget. The taken measures to investigate the crimes are also different in this court. The courts of appeal are composed of one presiding judge and two counselors.
Since its establishment, this court has always been criticized. For instance, if the Special Court of Clergies claims to be a subpart of the judiciary, why doesn’t it allow defendants to choose a lawyer? While according to Article 35 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, defendants have the right to choose a lawyer for themselves in all courts.
Investigation procedure in Special Court of Clergies: Complaints are first filed in the court of the relevant province before the provincial prosecutor. Then, the prosecutor orders that the complaint be referred to one of the branches of the assistant prosecutor’s office and referred to the prosecutor again for an indictment. After the indictment is issued, the case is referred to the court of first instance, which is located in the same court. After the issuance of the initial verdict, if one of the parties requests an appeal, a special clerical appeal court will convene. The appeal court exists only in Tehran. The decision of the court of appeal is final and only the plaintiff can request a retrial. All steps are done confidentially, and all notifications and votes are communicated in person.
According to the regulations, Special Court of Clergies has jurisdiction to investigate the following charges:
A. All crimes of clergies
B. All acts against the dignity of clergies
C. All local disputes that are against public security if one party to the dispute is a clergy.
D. All cases assigned by Ali Khamenei, the leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
If the court of first instance makes a mistake in issuing the verdict and that mistake is significant and fundamental, then the judge of the appellate court for clergies will overrule the verdict and return the case to the office of Special Court of Clergies to be considered by another branch.
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