State Structure

Leadership | Executive | Legislative | Judiciary | Assembly of Experts | National Security Council | Expediency Discernment Council


The highest authority in the Islamic Republic is Leader - or alternatively the Leadership Council - who exercises the combined supreme political and religious power and, indeed, is a manifestation of the integration of politics with religion (Article 5 of the constitution).

Furthermore, the constitution has provided for the election of a Leader or a Leadership Council and the qualifications of the Leader or members of the Leadership Council (Article 107).

The first leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran Ayatollah Khomeini, assumed his position as the founder of the Islamic republic and the theological protector (vali-e-faqih). Duties, powers and qualifications of the leaders, or the Leadership Council, as the case may be, have been specified by the constitution (Article 109-111).

After demise of Ayatollah Khomeini on 3 June 1989 Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamanei was elected by the Assembly of Experts in May 1989 as the new leader of the Islamic Republic.

There are several institutions and agencies which are not accountable to any branch of state, and are overseen by the leader through his representatives. These include:

  • Panzdah Khordad Foundation (Bonyad-e Panzdah Khordad)
  • Martyr Foundation (Bonyad-e Shahid)
  • Housing Foundation (Bonyad-e Maskan)
  • Literacy Movement (Nehzat-e Savad-Amoozi)
  • Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution (Shoraye Aali Enqelab-e Farhangi)
  • Islamic Propaganda Organisation (Sazeman-e Tablighat-e Islami)
  • Land Allocation Committees (Hay'athaye Vagozari Zamin)
  • Foundation of the Oppressed (bonyad-e Mostaz'afan)

The amendment of the constitution has modified the constitution as follows:

  • the Leadership Council has been removed and the Assembly of Experts for Leadership given the task of electing a single leader. The constitution originally provided for election of a leader either by the people, as in the case of Ayatollah Khomeini, or by the Assembly of Experts. The related amendment has removed the first option. The Assembly of Experts has also been given the task of dismissing the leader from his position if he is incapable of carrying out his duties, or if he loses the requirements of a leader, or if it becomes clear that he lacked some of them from the beginning;
  • The leader is no longer required to be a supreme theological authority (marja' taqlid) whom Shia Muslims follow. He should possess adequate knowledge to issue edicts on the basis of various chapters of the Islamic canon;
  • The powers and duties of the leader have been set as follows, although he may delegate them to his representatives:
  • Deciding the overall policies of the country after consultation with the Council for Determination of Exigencies - the leader has the final say;
  • Ordering referenda;
  • Resignation of Islamic canonist members of the Guardian Council, head of the judiciary, director of the Radio and Television Organisation, chief of army general staff, the commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, and the commanders of the armed and security forces;
  • General command of the armed forces;
  • Declaring war and peace and ordering mobilization of forces;
  • Resolving disputes between the heads of the three branches of the state and regulating the relationship between them;
  • Signing the decree endorsing the president on his election;
  • Dismissing the president in the national interest, should a ruling of the Supreme Court find him in breach of his duties, or a vote of Majlis disqualify him;
  • Pardoning prisoners or commuting their sentences at the recommendation of the head of the judiciary;
  • Solving those problems which cannot be solved by ordinary means, through the Council for Determination of Exigencies.

Source: Iran YearBook 1996

The Executive


The second highest authority next to the leader, is the president. The constitution of 1979 saw the president as the head of the executive but at the same time as the co-ordinator of the three branches of the state. This placed him above all three of them.

The President is directly elected by people for a term of four years and his re-election for a successive term is permitted only once. According to the Constitution, he must possess the following qualifications: Iranian orgin and nationality, administrative and managerial skills, piety and trustworthiness, and a belief in the Islamic Republic's fundamental principles and the official religion of the country.

The President signs and supervises the implementation of laws passed by the Majles, signs treaties and other international agreements ratified by the Majles, receives the credentials of foreign ambassadors, endorses those of Iranian ambassadors sent abroad, and presides over the National Security Council. His responsibilities also include the administration of the country's budget and development plans ratified by the Majles.

Either the President or the First Vice President presides over the meetings of the Cabinet.

The Cabinet consists of the following Ministers:

  • Agriculture
  • Commerce,
  • Co-operative
  • Crusade for Construction (Jihad Sazandegi)
  • Culture and Higher Education
  • Defence
  • Economy and Finance
  • Education
  • Energy
  • Foreign Affairs,
  • Health and Medical Education
  • Housing and Urban Development,
  • Industries
  • Information (Intelligence)
  • Interior
  • Islamic Guidance and Culture
  • justice
  • Labour and Social Affairs
  • Mines and Metals
  • Oil
  • Post, Telephone, Telegraphs,
  • Roads and Transport

The President also has seven aids in charge of Planning and Budget Organisation, the Organisation of Administrative and Employment Affairs, Atomic Energy Organisation, Civil Service and Social Security, the Environmental Affairs Organisation, the Executive Affairs Organisations, and the Physical Training Organisation.

The prime minister was the actual head of the executive. According to the constitution of 1979 he should be nominated by the president and had to win a vote of confidence from the Majlis. Ministers were nominated by the prime minister and approved by the president. Upon approval by the latter, ministers appeared before the Majlis to receive a vote of confidence.

Ministers were directly accountable to the Majlis. The prime minister was responsible for all the actions taken by his ministers, and each individual minister was responsible for all measures and decisions taken by the cabinet. Members of parliament might table motions of no confidence in the cabinet as a whole or in individual ministers (Articles 133-137 of the constitution).

The most important modification of the constitutional amendment in regard of the executive is the abolition of the office of prime minister. The president has been given all the powers that the prime minister had under the constitution. The president will name ministers, introduce them to the Majlis to obtain votes of confidence, and ask for a vote of confidence for his government from the Majlis on controversial issues. Unlike the prime minister, however, he does not have to receive a vote of confidence before forming a government, because he will be elected by the direct vote of the people. The president, however, faces the same checks as the prime minister.

In addition to ministers, the president may also be asked questions or face a vote of non-confidence. One quarter of all members of Majlis may table a question to the president, who will have to answer it in the house. Any one member may put questions to any minister of his responsibilities. Motion of non-confidence in ministers must be signed by 10 members of Majlis. Ministers who fail to win a vote of confidence will be dismissed and may not be members of the government immediately formed afterwards. To enable a motion of non-confidence in the president, endorsement of one-third of members is required. A majority of two-thirds is needed to dismiss the president with a vote of non-confidence.

The president is no longer required to co-ordinate the Relations of the three powers of the state as the constitution earlier required. That is a task of the leader. He will have several deputies, and His vice-president will assume his tasks in his absence, upon his death or resignation, or illness for more than two months, or in any other case. The leader's consent is essential for this. If necessary, the vice president is required to arrange for a presidential election within 50 days of assuming office.

The plan and budget ministry has been abolished as a ministry, and the responsibility for it as well as the Civil Employment and Administrative Affairs Organisation has been entrusted to the president. The ministry had replaced the plan and budget Organisation, which had been under the direct control of the prime minister in 1985. This came about because members of Majlis were not allowed to put questions to the prime minister. But they could demand answers from the plan and budget minister.


The President's Office consists of the Secretariat, advisors and deputies to the president. After the revolution, documents and files of the former regime's disbanded National Security and Intelligence Organisation, which was affiliated to the Prime Minister's Office were taken over. A special department was assigned to take charge of those files. That department is still functioning under the president.

  • Plan and Budget Organisation (Sazeman-e Barnameh va Budgeh) which is in charge of:
    • Statistics Centre of Iran
    • National Cartography Centre
    • Computer Centre
    • Iranian Data Processing Company
    • Remote Assessment Centre (satellites application project)
  • Civil Employment and Administrative Affairs Organisation (Sazeman-e Moor Estekhdami va Edari Keshvar) is assigned to co-ordinate government organisations, to frame rules and regulations for employment of civil servants and to draw up organisational charts for newly established organisations.
  • State Management Training Centre of Iran (Sazeman-e Amoozesh Modiriat Sanati Iran)
  • National Documents Organisation of Iran (Sazeman-e Assnad-e Melli Iran) files all government documents.
  • Civil Retirement Organisation (Sazeman-e Bazneshastegi Keshvari)
  • Physical Education Organisation (Sazeman-e Tarbiat Badani)
  • Environmental Protection Organisation (Sazeman-e Hefz-e Mohit-e Zist)
  • Atomic Energy Organisation (Sazeman-e Energy Atomi)


- Agriculture (Vezarat-e Keshavarzi): A large number of research and other centres operate under the authority of this ministry. The most important of them are:

  • National Forests and Pastures Organisation
  • Plants Conservation Organisation
  • Seeds and Saplings Improvement and Provision Research Institute
  • Pests and Phytopathology Research Institute
  • Soil and Water Research Institute
  • Iranian Milk Industries Company
  • Haft Tappeh Sugar Cane Agro-Industry Company
  • National Meat Company
  • Silk Worm Breeding Promotion and Research Company.
  • Construction Crusade (Jahad-e Sazandegi) was established initially as a revolutionary institution to coordinate popular measures for reconstruction of rural areas, but was transformed into a ministry in 1983. It is concerned with rural development, solving problems of nomadic groups, helping with livestock breeding, solving problems of farmers and rural people and promoting rural industries, etc.


  • Fisheries Company (Shilat).

- Commerce (Vezarat-e Bazargani) has the following affiliates:

  • Central Cooperative Organisation
  • Exports Promotion Centre
  • Tea Organisation
  • Cereals Organisation
  • Sugar Organisation
  • Organisation for Protection of Consumers and Producers (OPCP)
  • Trading Services Promotion Organisation
  • The Iranian State Trading Company
  • The Warehousing & Warehouse Construction Company
  • Iranian Insurance Company
  • Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines.

- Culture and Higher Education (Vezarat Farhang va Amoozesh Aali) supervises the following research centres:

  • Cultural Heritage Organisation of Iran
  • Scientific and Cultural Publications Centre
  • Cultural Studies and Research Institute
  • Materials and Power Application and Properties Research Centre

- Culture and Islamic Guidance (Vezarat Farhang va Ershad-e Islami)has the following affiliates:

  • Hajj, Endowments and Charity Affairs Organisation
  • Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA)
  • Tourism Centres Organisation.

- Defense (Vezarat-e Defa) runs:

  • Etka Factories Company, which supplies goods to the army personnel
  • Fakhr-e Iran Knitting and Weaving Company
  • Machine Made Bread Factories Company
  • Defence Industry Organisation, which manufactures armaments
  • Electronic Industries Company, with a sub-affiliate company named Easiran Company
  • Iranian Aircraft Industries Company
  • Iranian Helicopter Support and Renovation Company
  • Niroo Battery Manufacturing Company.

- Economic Affairs and Finance (Vezarat Omoor Eqtessadi va Daraie) has several affiliates:

  • Iranian Customs Administration
  • Investment and Economic and Technological Aid Organisation of Iran
  • The Financial Organisation for Expansion of Proprietorship of Production Units
  • The Electronic Calculators Services Corporation
  • Auditing Company
  • Iranian Central Insurance Agency
  • National Iranian Public and Customs Warehouses Company
  • Banks including the Central Bank of Iran, Ostan Banks, Bank Tejarat, Bank Sepah, Bank Saderat, Bank of Industry and Mine, Bank of Agriculture, Bank Melli, Housing Bank, Bank Mellat.

- Education (Vezarat-e Ammoozesh va Parvaresh) supervises:

  • The Centre for the Intellectual Development of Children & Young Adults
  • The Guardians and Instructors Society
  • The Educational Planning and Research Organisation
  • The National Organisation for Renovation and Equipping Schools.

- Energy (Vezarat-e Niroo) has several affiliates:

  • Water Resources Research Institute
  • Water Engineering Services Company (Mohab)
  • Dam Construction & Irrigation Installations Company (Sabir)
  • Power Engineering Services Company (Mashanir)
  • National Power Generation & Transmission Company (Tavanir)
  • Iranian Electrical Power Equipment Manufacturing & Provision Company (Satkab)
  • Regional Water Boards
  • Regional Electricity Boards.

- Foreign Affairs (Vezarat-e Omoor Kharejeh):

  • International Relations College, established in 1983, trains diplomats for the ministry
  • The Institute for Political and International Studies is the ministry's think-tank.

- Health and Medical Education (Vezarat-e Behdasht, Darman va Amoozesh Pezeshki) has the following affiliates:

  • Pasteur Institute as a research centre
  • Institute of Nutrition Sciences and Food Industry
  • Blood Transfusion Organisation
  • Anti-Leprosy Organisation
  • Social Welfare Organisation
  • The National Pharmaceutical Company
  • Social Security Organisation
  • Workers' Welfare Bank
  • Red Crescent Society
  • Regional health offices in Tehran and other cities and towns.
  • Housing and Urban Development (Vezarat-e Maskan va Shahr Sazi) has the following affiliates:
  • Housing Organisation
  • Urban Lands Organisation
  • Iranian Housing Construction Factories Company
  • Housing and Building Research Centre.

- Industry (Vezarat-e Sanaye) exerts control over industries though the following bodies:

  • National Iranian Industries Organisation (NIIO)
  • Institute of Standards and Industrial Research of Iran
  • The Iranian Tobacco Monopoly, and a few others.
  • Industries Development and Renovation Organisation (IDRO)

- Intelligence (Vezarat-e Ettela'at) was established in 1983 and was put in charge of national security, counter-intelligence and handing of outlawed political groups. It does not have any affiliates.

- Interior (Vezarat-e Keshvar) is in charge of the following organisations:

  • State Organisation for Personal Status Registration
  • Law Enforcement (Police)

- Islamic Revolution Guards (Vezarat-e Sepah Pasdaran-e Enqelab-e Islamic) is in charge of the paramilitary national Mobilization of the Oppressed (Baseej-e Mostazafan) Organisation.

- Justice (Vezarat Dadgostari) supervises:

  • State Notaries Department for Deeds and Real Estate
  • Official Gazette Company
  • Forensic Medicine Department
  • Institute of Experts of Justice Administration.

- Labour and Social Affairs (Vezarat Kar va Omoor Ejetma'i) oversees:

  • Professional and Technical Training Organisation
  • Labour and Social Security Institute
  • Foundation for the Imposed War Refugees.

- Mines and Metals (Vezarat-e Ma'adan va Felezzat) is in charge of:

  • National Geology Organisation
  • National Iranian Mines and Metal Smelting Company
  • National Iranian Steel Company
  • National Iranian Mining Explorations Company
  • National Iranian Copper Industries Company
  • National Iranian Lead and Zinc Company

- Oil (Vezarat-e Naft) has several affiliated companies:

  • National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC)
  • National Iranian Gas Company (NIGC)
  • National Iranian Petrochemical Company (NIPC)
  • Iranian Offshore Oil Company (IOOC)
  • National Iranian Drilling Company (NIDC)
  • National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC)
  • Kala Company Ltd.
  • Ahvaz Pipe Mills.

- Posts, Telegraphs and Telephones (Vezarat-e Post, Telegraph va Telephone) runs:

  • Telecommunications Company of Iran
  • Posts Company
  • Telephones Company

- Roads & Transport (Vezarat-e Raah va Tarabari) has the following affiliates:

  • Railways of the Islamic Republic of Iran
  • Ports and Shipping Organisation
  • Civil Aviation Organisation
  • Islamic Republic of Iran Airline (Iran Air)
  • National Aviation Services Company (Asseman)
  • National Meteorology Organisation
  • Roads Safety Equipment Production Company
  • Road Construction & Maintenance Machinery & Equipment Procurement Company
  • Iranian Roads Development Organisation
  • Soil Technical and Mechanical Laboratory
  • Irano-Russia Transportation Company.

Source: Iran Year Book,1996

The Legislative

The legislature comprises two powerful institutions: Parliament (Majlis) and the Guardian Council of the Constitution. Under the provisions of the constitution all legislation's must first be approved by the Majlis and then be ratified by the Guardian Council. They are signed into laws by the president. Two more legislative bodies were created in 1988 by Ayatollah Khomeini. These were the Council for Determination of Exigencies and the Council of Policy Making for Reconstruction The Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution has legislative powers on educational matters.


The Accounting Court is administered by the legislature and has the task of reviewing the earnings and spending of all organisations and institutions which receive appropriations from the budget.


Majlis-e Shora-ye Islamic (Islamic Consultative Assembly), known as the Majlis for short, is the Iranian parliament. It has 270 members who are elected by the direct vote of the people for four years. The powers and functions of the Majlis are specified b y the constitution (Article 71-90).

The first Majlis after the Islamic revolution was convened in 1980 and the second Majlis began its terms in 1984. The general election for the third Majlis was held in April 1988, and its terms started in May 1988. People went to the polls for the fourth Majlis in April 1992 .

A principal requirement for any members of parliament (MP) is his/her deep belief in Islam. However, the religious minorities recognized by the constitution, the Zoroastrians, the Jews and the Armenian and Assyrian Christians have their own representative s in the Majlis. The first two minorities have one MP each and the Armenians, larger in population, have two MPs for the south and north of Iran. The Assyrians have one MP.

Majlis has a set of internal rules which sets forth the manner of steering its meetings, debating and voting on the bills and motions etc., and the tasks of its committees. According to the rules, the Majlis has a steering board comprising a speaker, two deputy speakers who run the meetings in his absence and a number of secretaries and provisions administrators.

Under the provision of Article 69 of the constitution, the deliberations of the Majlis must be open, the full report of which is broadcast by the radio and then published verbatim by the Official Gazette. The president, or one of the ministers or 10 MPs m ay call for a closed meeting of the Majlis. The constitution, however, emphasizes that the resolutions of the closed meeting will only become law if they are passed by a majority of three-quarters of members of parliament (MPs) with Guardian Council members also attending. But ordinary meetings of the Majlis reach quorum by attendance of two-thirds of the MPs, and their resolutions normally become law by simple majority, unless otherwise required by law.

MPs do not have judicial immunity except under Article 86 of the constitution. In May 1988, a motion effectively amounting to a sort of parliamentary immunity for the members was passed in the first reading. It provided for investigating offence committed by the members before and during membership by the courts concerned in Tehran. MPs should only be summoned or subpoenaed through the Majlis. Details of the bill were to be decided in the second reading.


Majlis has the following powers:

  • a) debating the motions tabled by the government upon the cabinet's approval, as well as bills tabled by at least 15 MPs,
  • b) debating and inquiring into all the national affairs,
  • c) approving international treaties, protocols, agreements and contracts,
  • d) effecting minor changes in the border lines by taking into consideration the national interests, and by a majority of four fifths of MPs,
  • e) agreeing to the cabinet's request for proclamation of martial law for no more than 30 days,
  • f) Tabling a motion of no confidence in the prime minister or any of the ministers; casting vote of confidence or no confidence in the government or in any of the ministers.


Majlis has several permanent committees with the task of carrying out the initial discussions about the bills and motions. Moreover, select committees are formed as the need arises. Early 1989 amendments to House rules allowed committees to have between nine and 15 members, with the exception of the constitutional article 90 committee, which can have 15-31 members. The permanent committees are:

  • 1) Education;
  • 2) Culture and Higher Education;
  • 3) Islamic Guidance and Arts and Mass Media;
  • 4) Economy and Finance;
  • 5) Plan and Budget;
  • 6) Oil;
  • 7) Industry and Mine;
  • 8) Labour and Social Affairs, and Administrative and Employment Affairs;
  • 9) Housing and Urban Development and Roads and Transport;
  • 10) Judicial and Legal Affairs;
  • 11) Defence and Islamic Revolution Guards Corps;
  • 12) Foreign Policy;
  • 13) Internal Affairs & Councils;
  • 14) Health and Welfare, Relief, Social Security and Red Crescent;
  • 15) Posts, Telegraphs and Telephones, and Energy;
  • 16) Commerce and Distribution;
  • 17) Agriculture and Rural Development;
  • 18) Prime Ministry Affiliated Organisations;
  • 19) Accounting Court and the House Budget and Finance;
  • 20) Revolution Institutions;
  • 21) Constitutional Article 90 Petitions Committee which has the task of investigating the complaints of the public against government organisations;
  • 22) Questions Review Committee, which has the task of reviewing the questions of MPs to ministries and the latter's replies. This committee decides if the replies have been satisfactory. Should the committee find a minister's reply unsatisfactory thr ee times, MPs will be able to table a motion of no confidence in the minister concerned.


A bill or a motion may be tabled with the Majlis in two ways:

  • 1) the government may table it upon the cabinet's approval;
  • 2) fifteen MPs may table a motion. The Steering Board of the Chamber is responsible for arranging the debating procedure. The bills are normally debated in turn. Urgent motions are debated under a different procedure as explained later.

Debating procedure begins with the first reading of a bill which has already been passed by the committee concerned and the text of which has been distributed to the MPs. Should the bill's generalities be passed in the first reading, it would then be forw arded to the committee(s) concerned for a review of its details. At this stage, MPs may propose their related amendments. The bill's details and the proposed amendments are discussed, and either adopted or rejected. The committee concerned may also invite experts from outside the parliament to take part in its meetings.

Subsequently the bill comes up for a second reading which concerns its details. At this stage, MPs whose proposed amendments have not been adopted by the committee concerned, may put their proposal to the full House and call for votes. If the bill is pass ed in the second reading, it would be forwarded to the Guardian Council for ratification.

This is the normal procedure of legislation. Urgent, one-star, bills however are discussed only once by the committee concerned. Very urgent, two-star bills do not even go to the committees and are debated by two successive meetings of the Chamber. The fi rst meeting deals with the generalities of the bill and the second with its details. Top urgent, three star, bills and motions are placed on the agenda immediately. The degree of urgency of the bills has to be approved by a majority of the MPs. Some of th e bills cannot be tabled under urgency provisions, for instance the budget.


Majlis Seats by Provinces





















































Motions and bills passed by the Majlis do not automatically become law. The constitution has provided for a constitutional council of sages known as the Council of Guardians of the Constitution (Shora-ye Negahban-e Qanun-e Assassi, Articles 91-99). The Gu ardian Council, as it is known for short, is in effect an upper house of parliament with the power to vote out the lower house's resolutions. It is assigned to check the laws passed by the Majlis, compare them with the provisions of the Islamic canon and the constitution, and ratify them, or return them to the House for being amended.

The council has 12 members. Six are clerical Islamic canonists and six others are civilian jurists. The first group of six is appointed by the leader, or the Leadership Council, and the second group is elected by the Majlis from among candidates nominated by the Supreme Judicial Council.

Members of the Guardian Council serve a six-year term. Only in the first term, however, half of its members, as determined by lots, were changed after three years. The leader is empowered to reinstate the Islamic canonist members of the council after thei r six-year term is over. Article 93 of the constitution has emphasized that the Majlis does not hold any legal status, if the Guardian Council has not yet been formed, except for the purpose of approving the credentials of the MPs and the election of six jurists to the Guardian C ouncil.


The Majlis is required to forward all its resolutions to the Guardian Council. The council will announce its opinion on them within no more than 10 days. It may, however, request more time if necessary.

Regarding the compatibility of the legislation with Islamic provisions, only the opinion of a majority of the six Islamic canonists of the council is valid, but concerning their constitutionality the opinion of the majority of all members will hold. The c ouncil members are required to attend Majlis debates on urgent bills.

The Guardian Council also has the duty of interpreting the constitutional provisions, and its opinions in this regard are valid by a majority of three-fourths of its members. Other duties of the council include supervision of the presidential elections, general elections and referenda.

The council's power of veto over legislation imposed a state of imbroglio on important bills such as those dealing with farming lands distribution, foreign trade and goods distribution throughout the first two terms of the Majlis.

Source: Iran Year Book, 1996


The Judiciary

The judiclary is an independent branch whose powers and responsibilities include administration and implementation of justice, supervision on the proper enforcement of the law, of the promotion of legitimate freedoms, protection of individual and public rights, providing due process for the resolution of judicial disputes, and investigation, prosecution, and punishment of criminals in accordance with the Islamic penal code. It is also incumbent upon the Judiciary branch to take adequate measures to prevent crime and to rehabilitate criminals.

The highest Judicial authority is a Justice well versed in judiciary affairs and skillful in the administration of justice. He is appointed by the Leader for a period of five years. The Ministry ofjustice is the official authority to which all grievances and complaints are referred. The Minister of justice is in charge of administrating the Ministry as well as coordinating the relationship between the Judiciary branch and the legislative and executive branches.

The courts are functionally classified according to their area of jurisdiction, civil or criminal, and according to the seriousness of the crime or the litigation, e.g., value of property under dispute or the level of punitive action involved. There are four civil courts: first level civil courts, second level civil courts, independent civil courts, and special civil courts. The latter attend to matters related to family laws and have jurisdiction over divorce and child custody. Criminal courts fall into two categories: first and second level criminal courts. The first level courts have jurisdiction over prosecution for felony charges, while the second level courts try cases that involve lighter punitive action.

In addition to the regular courts, which hear criminal and civil suits, the judiciary encompasses clerical tribunals, revolutionary tribunals, and the Court of Administrative justice. Clerical courts entrusted with the task of trying and punishing misdeeds by the clergy. Revolutionary tribunals are charged with the responsibility of hearing and trying charges of terrorism and offenses against national security. The Court of Administrative justice under the supervision of the head of the judicial branch is authorized to investigate any complaints or objections by people with respect to government officials, organs, and statues. The Constitution also requires the establishment of a Supreme Court with the task of supervising the implementation of laws by the courts and ensuring uniformity in Judicial procedures. The head of the judiciary, in consultation with the judges of the Supreme Court, nominates the Chief of the Supreme Court and the Attomey-General who, among other qualifications, must be specialists in Islamic Law.

The Constitution requires all trials to be open to the public unless the court determines that an open trial would be detrimental to public morality or public order, or in case of private disputes, if both parties request that open hearings not be held.

Source: Iran Land of Norooz;1993


Assembly of Experts

The constitution has provided for the convening of an Assembly of Experts (Majlis-e Khobregan) to choose a leader in the event of Ayatollah khomeini's demise, and to determine if the leader, or any member of the Leadership Council, is capable of fulfilling his duties. This will be done by continuously reviewing his/their performance (Articles 108 and 111).

The idea of an assembly of experts was born out of the post-revolution debates concerning a constituent assembly for drawing up a constitution. When the majority of the electorate voted for an Islamic republic in preference over a monarchical regime in a two-way referendum in April 1979, it was decided to submit drafts of the constitution to an assembly for debating and later putting the outcome to a referendum.

Some political groups and the provisional government of Mr. Mehdi Bazargan stood for convention of a full constituent assembly with over 600 members from all over the country. However, the clerical leaders in particular believed that a constituent assembly would waste much time, and would prolong the debates for months or even for years. Ayatollah Khomeini intervened in favour of the second group, and ordered elections for a smaller assembly, called the Assembly of Experts, with over 70 members.

Consequently, the First Assembly of Experts was convened and after debating a draft constitution, which the provisional government submitted, and amending it extensively, put the final product to a referendum on 2 December 1979. The assembly was then disbanded.

The balloting for the Second Assembly of Experts, as required by the constitution, was held in December 1982 for the election of 83 members, of whom 76 were elected in the first round and the rest in the second round. A number of members passed away in the past few years, being substituted in April 1988 by-elections.


Members of the Assembly of Experts do not face any restrictions concerning their engagement in other occupations, such as membership of parliament or holding government positions. As a result, a good number of leading officials are members of the Assembly of Experts. But, unlike the First Assembly of Experts, only clerics are members of the second assembly.

The Assembly of Experts is required to have one annual session. It is required by law to meet in Qom, but up to now its sessions have been held in Tehran out of convenience. Nevertheless, the Secretariat of the Assembly of Experts is based in Qom. The term of the Assembly of Experts is eight years.

Ever since its convening, the Second Assembly of Experts has been active in two fields:

1) Taking a decision about a successor to Ayatollah Khomeini. As a result, Ayatollah Montazeri was chosen in November 1985 by the assembly as the successor to Ayatollah Khomeini. Later on, the Assembly of Experts announced that it had not elected Ayatollah Montazeri, but had only confirmed his tacit election by the people, as stipulated by Article 107 of the constitution. But the ayatollah resigned in March 1989.

2) Framing the Assembly's internal rules. The assembly has approved rules of procedure for steering its sessions, conditions for elections of members to Assembly of Experts as well as parts of the law of enforcement of Article 107 of the constitution (on the election of a leader or a Leadership Council).

To amend the constitution, an Assembly of Experts specially assigned to the task will have to be elected and convened. But Ayatollah Khomeini appointed a Constitution Review Panel in late April 1989 to amend parts of the constitution.

Source: Iran Year Book;1993


The Supreme National Security Council

The Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) is an institution founded in the course of revision of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The SNSC has been established with an aim to watch over the Islamic Revolution and safeguard the IRI's national interests as well as its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

According to Article 177 of the Constitution, the responsibilities of the SNSC are as follows:

  • 1. To determine the national defense/security policies within the framework of general policies laid down by the Leader.
  • 2. To coordinate political, intelligence, social, cultural and economic activities in relation to general defense/security policies.
  • 3. To exploit material and non-material resources of the country for facing internal and external threats.

Commensurate with its responsibilities, the Supreme National Security Council has established sub-committees such as defense subcommittee and national security sub-committee. The sub-committees are headed by the President or one of the members of the SNSC appointed by the President.

Limits of authorities and functions of the sub-committees are laid down by law, and their organisational structure are approved by the SNSC. Approvals of the SNSC shall be enforceable after ratification of the Leader.

The members of the SNSC consists of:

  • Heads of the three Powers (Executive, Legislative and Judiciary)
  • Chief of the Supreme Command Council of the Armed Forces (SCCAF)
  • The official in charge of the Plan an Budget Organisation (PBO)
  • Two representatives nominated by the Leader
  • Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of the Interior, and Minister of Information (Intelligence)
  • A minister concerned with the subject, and the highest authorities of the Army and the Islamic Revolution's Guards Corps (IRGC).

Source: Farhang va Andisheh Institute;August 1997


Expediency Discernment Council of the System

The Expediency Discernment Council of the System (EDCS) was established on February 6, 1988 upon the orders of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to overcome the differences of views between the Islamic Consultative Assembly (Majlis) and the Council of Guardians.

Article 112 of the 1989 amended Constitution states:

"The Majma-e- Tashkhis-e- Maslahat-e Nezam (Expediency Discernment Council of the System) shall be convened at the order of the Leader to determine such expedience in cases where the Council of Guardians finds an approval of the Majlis against the principles of Sharia (religious law) or the Constitution, and the Majlis in view of the expedience of the System is unable to satisfy the Council of Guardians, as well as for consultation in matters referred to it by the Leader, and for discharging other functions laid down in this law.

"The permanent and mutable members of this Majma shall be appointed by the Leader.

"Regulations related to the Majma shall be prepared and approved by the members of the Majma itself and ratified by the Leader."

On March 18, 1997, Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei appointed 27 new members for five years and Hojjatoleslam Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani as the Chairman of the EDCS thus opening a new window to the functions of the Council.

The functions of the EDCS are as follows:

  1. Making decisions in those cases where the ratifications of the Islamic Consultative Assembly are not confirmed by the Council of Guardians, and where the deputies insist on the implementation of the ratifications.
  2. Consultation in those matters referred thereto by the Leader.
  3. Selection of a faqih (clerical Islamic jurist) member of the Council of Guardians of the Constitution as a member of the Leadership Council, in accordance with Article 111 of the Constitution.

Article 111 states:

"In case the Leader is unable to carry out his legal functions, or loses one of his qualifications mentioned in Article 5 and Article 109, or if it transpires that he did not qualify some of the conditions form the very beginning, he shall be dismissed from his position.

"Such decision shall be made by the Khobregan (Assembly of Experts) mentioned in Article 108.

"In the case of death, resignation or dismissal of the Leader, the Khobregan shall be required to determine and declare the new Leader at the earliest. As long as the Leader is not declared, a council composed of the President, Head of the Judiciary and one of the Faqihs (jurisconsults) of the Council of Guardians chosen by the Majma-e- Tashkhis-e- Maslahate-e- Nezam shall collectively discharge the functions of the Leader on a temporary basis. If one of them is not able to discharge his duties for any reason whatsoever during this period, another person shall be appointed by the Majma in his place, maintaining the majority of the Faqihs in the council.

"This council shall proceed with the discharge of the duties set out in paragraphs 1, 3, 5 and 10, and sub-paragraphs (d), (e) and (f) of paragraph 6, Article 110 hereof, after approval by three-fourths of the members of the Majma-e-Tashkis-e-Maslahat-e- Nezam.

"If the Leader is temporarily unable to discharge the functions of the Leader as a result of sickness or other accidents, the council mentioned in this article shall discharge his functions during such period."

6. Membership of the permanent members of the EDCS in the Constitutional Revision Council, in accordance with paragraph 3 of Article 177 of the Constitution.

7. Ratification of the laws passed by the Leadership Council, in accordance with Article 111 of the Constitution.

Ayatollah Khamenei's Decree Concerning the Duties of the Members of the Expediency Discernment Council of the System

Farhango Andisheh Institute;18, March 1997

In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate

The Expediency Discernment Council which was formed upon the initiative of the late Imam Khomeini (peace be upon him) and later included as an article in the Constitution of the Islamic Republic thanks to the wisdom and foresight of those revising the Law, is one of the best legal organs established in the Islamic Republic ever since its inception. This is a lasting and blessed institution which was created by the great Leader of the Islamic Republic thanks to his keen sagacity and broader scope of things at a time that the country needed such a Council and with its invention the supreme administrative system of the country was complemented.

According to the Constitution, this Council acts as the trusted advisor of the Leader in shaping the general policies of the System and solving major disputes and differences which occur among the executive, judiciary and legislative powers. Moreover, when the Islamic Consultative Assembly and the Council of Guardians differ on a bill, the Expediency Council steps forward and solves their difference. Therefore, with an eye to the duties and responsibilities of the Expediency Discernment Council prescribed in the Constitution, this Council acts as the highest advisor of the Leader in the Islamic Republic System.

In the past years, the Expediency Discernment Council has rendered valuable services to the nation when there have been differences between the Majlis and the Council of Guardians regarding the Majlis approvals, and has issued appropriate verdicts concerning numerous cases that I have referred to them.

Now that with the widespread participation of the nation in all the political, social and economic arenas and with the endeavors of the officials and administrators of the executive, judiciary and legislative powers, the sacred Islamic Republic System has been firmly established and has found a commendable dignity, it is appropriate for the Expediency Discernment Council to fully discharge its duties and responsibilities and act as a senior advisor to the Leadership. For this reason besides the present members, it would be appropriate to appoint other senior politicians and clerics to enable the Council to discharge its important task in shaping the general policies of the System and to examine all important problems that are normally faced by the country.

Therefore, the new makeup of the Expediency Discernment Council of the System is declared as follows:

1. The legal personalities are:
a. The esteemed heads of the three powers.
b. The prominent jurisconsults of the Council of Guardians.
c. The minister concerned depending on the subject under discussion

2. The real personalities are: Messrs. Hashemi Rafsanjani, Mahdavi Kani , Amini Najafabadi, Vaez Tabasi, Ahmad Jannati, Mohammad Emami Kashani, Hassan Habibi, Mir Hussein Mousavi, Dr. Ali Akbar Velayati, Mohammad Rey Shahri, Haj Sheikh Hassan Sanei, Hassan Rowhani, Mohammad Mousavi Khoeiniha, Habibollah Asqar Owladi, Qorbanali Dorri Najafabadi, Ali Larijani, Mostafa Mirsalim, Mohammad Reza Tavassoli Mahallati, Abdollah Nouri, Morteza Nabavi, Dr. Hassan Firouzabadi, Gholamreza Aqazadeh, Bijan Namdar Zanganeh, Mohammad Hashemi, and Mohsen Nourbakhsh.

All these members have been appointed for a five year period and the head of the Council will be Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani.

The Expediency Discernment Council should have an active and significant secretariat to prepare the cases that are to be discussed in the sessions and to make necessary arrangements. Its head should be from among the members of the council and its liaison officer to be appointed by me, whenever necessary.

The Council is duty bound to draw up, in its early sessions some comprehensive regulations pertaining to the manner of formation of sessions, putting forward and approval of subject matters, as well as other details, and then send the same to me for my approval.

For this eminent institution to be able to discharge its important duties particularly in the matter of general policy making of the country, it should benefit from the latest expertise of the governmental responsible agencies and at the same time must avoid setting up parallel expert groups.

I pray to God the Almighty for the success of these gentlemen in fulfilling their important duties.

Seyed Ali Khamenei
March 18, 1997

Source: Farhang va Andisheh Institute; August 1997


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