Islamic Revolutionary Court

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Islamic Revolutionary Court [1] (also Revolutionary Tribunal, Dadgah-ha-e Enqelab [2] ) is a special system of courts in the Islamic Republic of Iran designed to try those suspected of crimes such as smuggling, blaspheming, inciting violence or trying to overthrow the Islamic government. The court started its work after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. [3]



The jurisdiction of the Revolutionary Courts, as amended in 1983, encompasses [4]

  1. All of the offenses against the internal and external security of the Country, combating and behaving in a corruptly manner on the earth.
  2. Uttering slander against the Founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Honorable Leader.
  3. Conspiracy against the Islamic Republic of Iran or carrying arms, [5] use of terrorism, destruction of building against the Islamic Republic.
  4. Engaging in espionage for aliens.
  5. All crimes involving smugglings and narcotic items.
  6. The cases pertinent to Article 49 of the Constitution of Iran.

Disputes over jurisdiction between the Revolutionary Courts and Iranian Penal Courts are resolved by the Iranian Supreme Court. To date, according to the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, "it appears that there is a tendency to extend the jurisdiction of the Revolutionary Courts to all offenses which in the opinion of the authorities are not punished severely enough." [4]

The trials are not public, there is no jury, and a single judge decides the matter at hand. Information on the trial is disclosed at the discretion of the government.[ citation needed ]



The revolutionary courts were created shortly after the overthrow of the monarchy and the arrival of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Iran. The general goal of the court is thought to have been to seek vengeance against officials of the Shah's regime (particularly SAVAK) – as many revolutionaries had lost friends and family members at the hands of the government – and to eliminate military and civilian leaders who might foment a counter-revolution against Islamic rule. [2]

Ruhollah Khomeini 20th-century Iranian religious leader and politician

Sayyid Ruhollah Mūsavi Khomeini, known in the Western world as Ayatollah Khomeini, was an Iranian politician and marja. He was the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the leader of the 1979 Iranian Revolution that saw the overthrow of the last Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, and the end of 2,500 years of Persian monarchy. Following the revolution, Khomeini became the country's Supreme Leader, a position created in the constitution of the Islamic Republic as the highest-ranking political and religious authority of the nation, which he held until his death. He was succeeded by Ali Khamenei on 4 June 1989.


SAVAK was the secret police, domestic security and intelligence service in Iran during the reign of the Pahlavi dynasty. It was established by Mohammad Reza Shah with the help of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Israeli MOSSAD. SAVAK operated from 1957 until the Iranian Revolution of 1979, when the prime minister Shapour Bakhtiar ordered its dissolution during the outbreak of Iranian Revolution. SAVAK has been described as Iran's "most hated and feared institution" prior to the revolution of 1979 because of its practice of torturing and executing opponents of the Pahlavi regime. At its peak, the organization had as many as 60,000 agents serving in its ranks according to one source, and another source by Gholam Reza Afkhami estimates SAVAK staffing at between 4,000 and 6,000.

The first tribunal was convened secretly in Refah School in southern Tehran where Khomeini had set up his headquarters. The first four death sentences were issued by Hojjat al-Islam Sadegh Khalkhali, approved by Khomeini, and carried out in the early hours of February 16, 1979. By early November, 550 people – mostly military and SAVAK – had been sent to the firing squads by revolutionary tribunals. [2] Revolutionary Tribunals were set up in the major towns, with two courts in the capital of Tehran – one each in the prisons of Qasr and Evin, and one traveling tribunal for Sadegh Khalkhali, who was known for handing out many death sentences. The courts presiding judges were clerics appointed by Khomeini himself. [6]

Refah School

Cultural Foundation of Refah (formerly Refah School was an elementary school for girls in Tehran, Iran. It gained historical significance in the 1979 Iranian Revolution when it was the temporary headquarters of the revolutionists lead by Ruhollah Khomeini. It was also used for the Islamic Revolutionary Court and the execution of officials of the second Pahlavi Regime on its rooftop before being transformed into what is being currently used as, a cultural and educational institution.

Tehran City in Iran

Tehran is the capital of Iran and Tehran Province. With a population of around 8.7 million in the city and 15 million in the larger metropolitan area of Greater Tehran, Tehran is the most populous city in Iran and Western Asia, and has the second-largest metropolitan area in the Middle East. It is ranked 24th in the world by the population of its metropolitan area.

Sadegh Khalkhali Iranian cleric and politician

Mohammed Sadeq Givi Khalkhali was a Shia cleric of the Islamic Republic of Iran who is said to have "brought to his job as Chief Justice of the revolutionary courts a relish for summary execution" that earned him a reputation as Iran's "hanging judge". A farmer's son from Iranian Tat Persian origins was born in Givi in appearance Khalkhali was "a small, rotund man with a pointed beard, kindly smile, and a high-pitched giggle."

At least at first, the revolutionary courts differ from standard Western law courts by limiting trials to a few hours, sometimes minutes. Defendants could be found guilty on the basis of "popular repute." The concept of defense attorney was dismissed as a "Western absurdity." A charge that was widely applied against defendants but unfamiliar to some was Mofsed-e-filarz, or "spreading corruption on earth". This covered a variety of offenses – "insulting Islam and the clergy," "opposing the Islamic Revolution," "supporting the Pahlavis," and "undermining Iran's independence" by helping the 1953 coup and giving capitulatory privileges to the imperial powers". [6]

The secrecy, vagueness of charges, lack of opportunity for defendants to defend themselves came under criticism from people such as Ayatollah Mohammad Kazem Shariatmadari, Hassan Tabatabai-Qomi and Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan. But the court's swift and harsh sentences also had strong support from both Islamists and leftist groups such as the Tudeh party and People's Mujahedin of Iran. Khomeini responded to complaints saying that "criminals should not be tried, they should be killed". Judge Khalkhali stated "The revolutionary courts were born out of the anger of the Iranian people and these people will not accept any principles outside Islamic principles". Attempts by Bazargan to appeal to Khomeini to restrict the courts only led to the courts becoming "stronger and more firmly entrenched". [2]

Since 1980

According to political scientist and historian Ervand Abrahamian, the Revolutionary Courts participated in the secret mass killings of thousands of imprisoned members of the People's Mujahedin of Iran and other leftist organizations in 1988. [7]

Although the Revolutionary Court normally deals with major economic and security crimes, in 2006 it was scheduled to try Cartoonist Mana Neyestani and his editor-in-chief Mehrdad Qassemfar "for inciting ethnic unrest" after a Neyestani cartoon triggered protests and violence among the Turkish-speaking population in northwestern parts of Iran after appearing in a weekly supplement "Iran Jomeh." [8]

See also

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  1. Human Rights Archived 2006-11-23 at the Wayback Machine
  2. 1 2 3 4 Bakhash, Shaul, Reign of the Ayatollahs, Basic Books, 1984, p.59-61
  3. CIA – The World Factbook – Iran Archived 2012-02-03 at the Wayback Machine
  4. 1 2 The Justice System of the Islamic Republic of Iran| Lawyers Committee for Human Rights Published: May 1993
  5. This is because no one that is not affiliated with the government is allowed to bear arms. This Court takes care of private arms-bearers.
  6. 1 2 Abrahamian, Ervand, Tortured Confessions, University of California Press, 1999, p.125
  7. Abrahamian, Ervand, Tortured Confessions, University of California Press, 1999, p.210
  8. Iranian Cartoonist will be Tried in the Islamic Revolutionary Court Archived 2007-09-28 at the Wayback Machine