Power Relations and Judicial Corruption in the Islamic Republic of Iran

by Mehdi Khosravi (Author)
©2021 Monographs X, 258 Pages


In order to understand the political structure and stability in the Islamic Republic of Iran, the nature of the Islamic judicial system in the country must be analysed. This book undertakes this responsibility and is the first comprehensive study of structurally deep-rooted corruption in the Islamic judiciary system. The findings of this research show that corruption in the judiciary is widespread in breadth and depth. This corruption has infiltrated every sector of the Islamic regime to the point where it impacts the day-to-day routine of the Iranian people.
Without a doubt, the influence of the Supreme Leader on the judiciary is the most prominent factor in the formation of judicial corruption and its epidemical spread to other parts of the government. This judicial corruption has calamitous consequences on Iranian society and has endangered society’s security. It has infringed on human rights, caused a dwindling economy, devalued the rule of law, and delayed social progress in the country.
This book will be of interest to students of legal studies, political science, Islamic studies, sociology, or religious studies. The book also provides precious insights for journalists, civil service employees, decision-makers, and all of those who are interested in discovering the reason for brutality in the Islamic judiciary. The book also provides useful information for the learned societies and research centres that are concentrated on Iranian studies, criminology, good governance, rule of law, and criminal justice systems.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Dedication
  • Contents
  • Figures
  • Chapter 1: Introduction
  • Overview
  • Introduction to This Study
  • Introduction to an Independent Judiciary
  • Judicial Corruption Is a Social Evil
  • Corruption in the Judiciary in Iran Today
  • About This Research
  • Chapter 2: Literature Review
  • Understanding Corruption
  • Reducing Corruption and Its Obstacles
  • Literature Review – Judicial Corruption
  • Reviewing Previous Research on Judicial Corruption in Iran
  • Chapter 3: The Complex Structure of the Iranian Judiciary
  • History of the Criminal Justice System in Iran
  • The Current Structure of the Judiciary in the Islamic Republic of Iran
  • Charts
  • Definition of the Judge and the Judiciary
  • Examining Anti-Corruption Laws in Iran
  • The Role of the Judiciary in the Massacre of Political Prisoners in the 1980s
  • The Evil Judges
  • The Committee of Inquiry of the Islamic Consultative Assembly
  • Chapter 4: Research Methodology
  • Research Approach
  • Data Collection
  • Awareness and Ethical Framework
  • Coding and Content Analysis
  • Chapter 5: Data Analysis
  • Introducing Interviewees
  • Data Analysis
  • Chapter 6: Comparison and Assessment
  • Shortcomings and Advantages of Comparative Approaches
  • Comparative Approach (Iran, England and Wales)
  • Comparison of Iran and China’s Judiciary Systems
  • Assessing the Judiciary Based on International Transparency Standards
  • Chapter 7: Conclusion
  • Summary of Findings
  • Examination of Corruption in the Judicial System
  • Future: Improving Conditions in the Judiciary
  • Appendix
  • Bibliography

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White collar crimes such as corruption and fraud could have severe consequences in society. Damage from the international financial crisis in 2008–2009 was over eleven thousand billion dollars, which has had an adverse effect on the world’s economy. One of the main factors of this crisis was fraud and corruption in the process of loan applications in the United States (Button & Tunely, 2016). What is astonishing is that even in developed countries, necessary attention is not given to this issue. Most politicians do not dedicate enough budget and facilities to this very sensitive matter. For instance in the UK, politicians attempt to allocate more police resources to other crimes such as knife crime, and not as much to fraud or corruption (Levi, 2003).

In recent years, though Iranian citizens and the media hold more debates about corruption among executives and senior authorities in power, they have not spent much time on its outcomes or the roots of corruption.

It is worth noting that corruption comes in different forms, with consequences varying from case to case. Some do more harm and damage compared to other forms. For example, corruption in banks can cause the destruction of the economy, whereas corruption affecting environments could carry more adverse ←1 | 2→social consequences (Klitgaard, 1998). Negative consequences of corruption on society are far beyond the exchanging of a sum of money to do an illegal job, or the seizing of money or goods in a manner unlawful by a member of the community. As the findings of this study indicate, corruption has calamitous consequences on society, which can endanger society’s security in the long run. It can infringe on human rights, cause a declining economy, and devalue the rule of law and overall interfere with the healthy progress of society, which could result in poverty. Quoting from James Wolfensohn, World Bank CEO, corruption is the most significant barrier in society:

We need to deal with the cancer of corruption. In country after country, it is the people who are demanding action on this issue. They know that corruption diverts resources from the poor to the rich, increases the cost of running businesses, distorts public expenditures, and deters foreign investors. They also know that it erodes the constituency for aid programs and humanitarian relief. And we all know that it is a major barrier to sound and equitable development. (WB Group, 1996)

Any type of corruption can be dangerous; however, based on this specific study, the most detrimental form is judicial corruption. This could affect society in a range of different ways, leading to a gradual ruination of a country.

The aim of this study is to examine the extent of judicial corruption in Iran. Living in the UK for a long while facilitated me with opportunities to embark on making comparisons between Britain and other countries. Great Britain was the birthplace of industrial revolution; hence, it has played a significant role in shaping the modern world. While studying and comparing the two countries, on average the UK possesses a healthy judicial system, free from corruption, or at least with minimal corruption. This judicial system has led to the formation of a robust democracy with little aggression while the power from the monarchy has slowly shifted to government departments.

This difference is more tangible when during the Constitutional Revolution of Iran (1905–1911), activists asked the Shah to build a Judiciary, whereas in the UK, over the course of many years, the system of justice had itself become one of the effective tools to create political accountability.

Comparison between the judicial system of Iran and the English courts has furnished me with a better understanding of the failings and strengths of the judiciary. For example, at first it was strange for me to comprehend why barristers do not shake hands with one another in the UK.

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Why there is a need for analysing judicial corruption in Iran? There exists a wide and long-standing system of judiciary in the Islamic Republic of Iran. We must first understand and familiarise ourselves with this judiciary system to recognise corruption within it.

The constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran has fundamental faults which do not recognise individual rights and freedoms. On the other hand, the corrupt judicial system cannot and does not have the capacity to defend such fundamental rights. In most cases citizens are unable to lodge claims for contravention of their rights in judicial courts. This has a noticeable effect on every single citizen’s life in Iran.

The most influential tool in every society to combat corruption is the judicial system. Now if the judicial system itself is affected by a high level of corruption, then there will no longer be an effective system in place to fight corruption in society. Ultimately, corruption could spread like an epidemic throughout the government. In other words, the best way to fight corruption in government would be to have an independent judiciary, but if the judiciary itself is diagnosed with such corruption, not only would the judiciary be in a weaker position to fight corruption, it can become a source to promote and reproduce corruption in both society and the government.

The importance of understanding judicial corruption is appreciated more when the judiciary (as the most significant factor in anti-corruption campaigns) is turned into an agent that reproduces corruption. In effect, instead of being a tool for resolving major problems in society, it places itself at the heart of problems, and eventually turns into a solid barricade for combating corruption.

Consequences of corruption in any judicial system are far more than the exchanging of bribes or enhancing the personal interests of judges or any officer, and it will be demonstrated in this study that such corruption will intervene in most aspects of society.

Introduction to This Study

A few matters worth considering about the judicial system in the Islamic Republic of Iran:

The most important characteristic of any judicial system is its impartiality and independence.

In liberal democracies, the definition of judiciary is accompanied with impartiality and a transparent system. However, this has become complicated in ←3 | 4→the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the judiciary is no longer impartial or transparent. For demonstration purposes see below:

1. The Human Rights Committee of the United Nations has officially announced Iran’s judicial system to have fundamental problems from the roots (Al Hussein, 2016, September 13).

2. According to what is reported by the media, the Intelligence Deputy of the judiciary in Iran has been arrested for a series of allegations involving participation in bribery, embezzlement, unlawful possession of properties and extortion (Saham, 2015, August 22). What is astonishing is that one of the most significant roles of this person is to cooperate with the country’s law enforcement to fight against corruption in the judicial system.

Introduction to an Independent Judiciary

We should first establish a definition for a transparent and corruption free judiciary before elaborating further on other aspects of the judicial system in the Islamic Republic of Iran. A non-corrupt judiciary should have the following characteristics:

1. Independence with having checks and balances in place.

2. Immunity of judges and independence from any external or internal influences.

3. Impartiality and non-interference of personal opinions or ideologies.

4. Equality of all citizens in the judicial system.

5. Competency of judges in terms of legal knowledge.

6. Having independent disciplinary courts and a regulatory body in place, which can oversee transparency and counter corruption.

7. The judges being answerable to the disciplinary courts.

8. Transparency in judges’ actions and the judiciary; publishing annual budgets; allocation of decent salaries for the judges; and publication of all verdicts and judgement of judges in the public domain.

9. It should also be mandatory for all judges to publish their reasonings in reaching decisions and determinations.

The United Nations General Assembly Resolution 40/32 of 29th of November 1985 identifies the independent judiciary in accordance with a need for justice ←4 | 5→as the prerequisite for achieving international co-operation in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms without any discrimination. The resolution explicitly urges the states to respect and observe the independence of the judiciary. Article 2 of the resolution also clearly emphasises the cardinal importance of the independence of the courts and explains this trait of the judicial system as the following:

The judiciary shall decide matters before them impartially, on the basis of facts and in accordance with the law, without any restrictions, improper influences, inducements, pressures, threats, or interferences – direct or indirect – from any quarter or for any reason.

From what can be gathered, impartiality and independence are two very important features in a judicial system. As you will see further in this study the absence of such features has led to serious judicial corruption.


X, 258
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2021 (April)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2021. X, 258 pp., 9 b/w ill., 2 tables.

Biographical notes

Mehdi Khosravi (Author)

Mehdi Khosravi studied Social Science at the University of Portsmouth. He earned his Master’s degree in Social Studies (majoring in Human Rights) from The Institute for Social Sciences and Humanities (The Hague, the Netherlands).


Title: Power Relations and Judicial Corruption in the Islamic Republic of Iran