Enforcement of International Treaties by Domestic Courts of Iran: New Developments

By Farshad Rahimi Dizgovin

Recently, some judicial decisions made Iranian headlines. In a recent speech, President Hassan Ruhani praised a judge for the sources of law he used in rendering judgments. Ruhani was praising Justice Heshmet Rostemi, who, by invoking international human rights treaties, broke with a longstanding tradition of Iranian courts. Rostemi’s are phenomenal decisions, because Iranian courts rarely invoke international treaties, especially human rights treaties. Lack of transparency and resources, judges’ unfamiliarity with international law and treaties, and judges’ conservatism are among the most important reasons which account for the scarcity of Iranian judges’ references to international treaties. Moreover, when there is a relevant domestic law, the majority of judges resist invoking international treaties. Some judges also believe that citing international treaties threatens their government, whose domestic laws are based on Sharia principles. Others simply consider international treaties less important than domestic law.

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