Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Hoseini Khamenei has appointed the ultra-conservative Gholamhossein Mohseni-Eji as the new head of the judiciary, the body charged with implementing and regulating the country's Sharia laws. Eji thus replaces Iran's now President Ebrahim Raisi as head of the judiciary.
Until now, Eji was Raisi's deputy, the second highest official in the country's judiciary. The new head of the judiciary is a cleric who held the Iranian intelligence portfolio between 2005 and 2009 in the first government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was subsequently removed from his post after a series of differences with the former president.
After leaving Ahmadinejad's government, Ejei was appointed prosecutor general of the Islamic Republic, until his appointment in 2014 as the first deputy head of the judiciary. Ejei has a background in religion and jurisprudence and rose to prominence in the Revolutionary Court, where he rose to various positions within the judiciary.
In a statement issued by the Iranian news agency ISNA, Ayatollah Khamenei emphasised that "serious attention should be paid to the missions of the judiciary in the constitution, as well as continuing the transformational approach and implementing the existing transformation document and disseminating new technologies in the judiciary".
Khamenei also referred to the new president as saying that his expectation is "first of all, a serious commitment to the basic missions of the judiciary in the constitution, namely the promotion of justice, the restoration of public rights, the provision of legitimate freedoms, the supervision of law enforcement, the prevention of crime and the resolute fight against corruption". Along with this statement, the ayatollah said he intends to "continue the transformational approach" and unite for "the development of new technologies and ensuring that people have easy and free access to judicial services".
The decision to appoint Eji as the new judiciary president comes against a backdrop in which Iran is facing criticism from human rights organisations and international bodies for the recent presidential victory of conservative Ebrahim Raisi, who won 62 per cent of the vote in an election that was characterised by low turnout. The new president has been labelled a "fanatic", "fundamentalist" or "ultra-conservative" for his restrictive measures.
The UN's Pakistani rapporteur, Javed Rehman, has called for an independent investigation into the execution of thousands of political prisoners by the state in 1988. According to Rehman, "there is widespread and systematic impunity in the country for gross human rights violations, both past and present". Rehman added that "there are very few, if any, avenues of accountability in line with standards".
Amnesty International's Secretary General Agnes Callamard said in a tweet that "as head of the judiciary, Ebrahim Raisi has presided over a growing crackdown on human rights that has led to the arbitrary detention of hundreds of peaceful dissidents, human rights defenders and members of persecuted minority groups".
In this regard, Iran has a fraudulent human rights record, which has been consistently denounced by international organisations for perpetuating human rights violations, especially in prisons and detention centres. However, Tehran has repeatedly rejected these accusations as "unfounded" due to a "lack of understanding of Islamic law".