"While Iran claims the new criminal code has improved defendants’ rights, these efforts are meaningless if parliamentary amendments completely undermine the spirit of fair judicial proceedings," the HRW quoted its Middle East director, Sarah Leah Whitson, as saying.
Iran’s law on criminal procedures stipulates that those charged with national security crimes are allowed to choose a lawyer while under investigation, although such access may be delayed for up to a week. However, amendments passed three days before the law went into force in 2015 restrict the rights of people charged with such offenses, requiring them to select a defender from a pool of lawyers approved by the head of the judiciary.
"Defendants having access to the lawyer of their choice is a crucial safeguard for guaranteeing a fair trial in Iran. Iran should immediately address this problematic provision in the law and take effective action against abuses committed in its judicial system," Whitson said.
According to the HRW, Iran has consistently failed to prevent torture in detention as means to gain evidence. This makes access to a lawyer from the time of an arrest an important safeguard against abuses in detention, the watchdog said.
On July 6, the Iranian bar association published an open letter to President Hassan Rouhani opposing the amendments to the criminal procedures law, however they received no response from the authorities.