Shirin Ebadi is an Iranian lawyer, a former judge, and human rights activist. In addition to writing several books and articles in support of human rights, Ebadi founded the Association for Support of Children’s Rights in 1995 and the Human Rights Defense Center in 2001. In 2003, Ebadi was the first Iranian awarded the Nobel Peace Prize due to her significant and pioneering efforts for democracy and human rights, especially women’s, children’s, and refugee rights.
Ebadi earned her law degree at Tehran University’s Faculty of Law and served as a judge in 1969. In 1975, Ebadi was appointed President of Bench 24 of Tehran’s City Court, becoming the first female in the history of Iranian justice system to achieve this distinction. More recently, Ebadi attended the first Trust Women Conference (2012) in London, where she promoted her petition to amend the gender-discrimination laws in Iran’s constitution.
Ebadi’s publications include: Iran Awakening: One Woman’s Journey to Reclaim Her Life and Country (2007); Refugee Rights in Iran (2008); and The Golden Cage: three brothers, three choices, one destiny (2011).
Human Rights in Iran
My other NGO is the first NGO that was founded in Iran, which works on land mines in Iran. In 2003, I founded Partnership for Mine Clearance. …We were to first to warn that Iran is the second most mine-planted country in the world and we wanted to draw the Iranian people’s attention and the world’s attention to this. Our goal was to pressure the Iranian government to ratify the Ottawa Treaty, which is a Mine Ban Treaty. We also helped to those who have been wounded by mines. …My human right activities along with my book brought an international reputation and awards for me. In 2003 I won the Nobel Peace Prize. In the mean time, I was busy founding some NGO’s including Association for Defending Children’s Rights in Iran. In corporation with some of my colleagues and friends I established the association about 20 years ago after Iran joined the convention of children’s rights. We were trying to improve the legal conditions of children in Iran. The reason is that there are very bad laws in Iran when it comes to children. For instance, if a man kills a child and he fails to obtain consent from the child’s parents, his will face a death penalty. But if he kills his own child the maximum penalty for him is 10 years of imprisonment. In other words, to murder one’s own-child gets less punishment. This is terrible! This is just one example of how bad Iran’s law is as regards children.
The Constitution of the Islamic Republic
The constitution changed after the revolution, and unfortunately it is a very bad constitution. From a legal perspective, things have been very complicated. It is stated in the constitution that there is a Supreme Leader and three branches: the Legislative branch, the executive branch, and the judicial branch. The Supreme Leader is above all three branches. The Supreme Leader’s authority increased with some reforms a few years later. The Supreme Leader even has the right to suspend definite government order. He is the commander in chief and he heads the three branches. The most important thing is that it is stated in the constitution that legislations must be approved by the Guardian Council and the Guardian Council can veto a law if it identifies it as not complying with the institution or the Islamic Sharia.
The Revolutionary Court
So, the Revolution Court was created the very first day after the Islamic Revolution in Iran. But it didn’t have a legal origin and it was called the Revolution Court. This situation continued until the legislations about the Revolution Court were passed, and the Revolution Court officially became a part of the legal system. There have been a lot of developments in the Revolution Court. In the beginning only anti-revolutionaries were tried in the Revolution Court. This means that those who were accused of political charges …didn’t accept lawyers. I remember several times that Mr. Khalkhali, who was among them, said that a living man doesn’t need a lawyer; he can talk for himself. This situation continued for, I can say, three years until it became more organized. …Some important crimes, such as political and security cases and crimes related to drugs, are now investigated in the Revolution Court. The judicial process is, at the moment we are speaking, like ordinary courts. But the judges in the court are distinctive judges who are extremely trusted by the security systems and all the dissidents or the critics of the regime are put on trial in the Revolution Court. I don’t remember any trial in the Revolution Court being open to the public. The court sessions were always closed.