The parallel activities of the Basij with the law enforcement forces has set a precedent, and this has continued, with ups and downs, at different times. But it seemed that the IRGC patrolling the Iranian streets to confront ‘social crimes’ – and not ‘security threats’ – had stopped in 1991, following the establishment of law enforcement forces.
Apart from the goals or the results of the new decision, naturally one of the most important questions is- what interpretation of existing Iranian laws are IRGC commanders going to use to explain the deployment of the IRGC on the capital’s streets?
On December 10, 2017, the Spokesperson for the Interior Ministry said considering Iran’s laws and ratifications of the ‘Social Council of the country’, the law enforcement forces are in charge of confronting social insecurities and the IRGC has not been asked for help in this regard. The ‘Social Council’, headed by the Interior Minister, oversees policy making and generating coordination amongst different organizations to confront social problems, and representatives of different institutions of the regime –from the Intelligence Ministry, law enforcement and Welfare Organization to the IRIB, the judiciary branch and the Basij – are present in this council.
The Interior Ministry took this position one day after the comments made by Mohammad Reza Yazdi, the IRGC Commander in Greater Tehran were published. He said ‘the IRGC of Greater Tehran, with police help, has formed patrols to prevent theft and to fight thugs and hooligans.’
» Ratification of the Supreme Council of National Security?
The Iranian Criminal Procedure Code, ratified in 1998, listed the law enforcement forces that include the police, the Basij, and other armed forces, that require ratification by the Supreme Council of National Security.
As a result, considering this 1998 law, the IRGC’s, to play a domestic policing role in selective areas would require ratification by the Supreme Council of National Security.
But in the new Criminal Procedure Code, ratified in 2013, law enforcement forces were placed in two categories of ‘public law enforcers’ – ‘trained personnel’– and ‘special law enforcers’ – the latter were officials and agents who ‘according to special laws would be considered as law enforcers within the boundary of assigned duties.’
According to this law, special law enforcers include- ‘the agents of the Intelligence Ministry and resistance forces of the IRGC’s Basij, as well as other armed forces in cases in which part or all of the duties of the law enforcers are assigned to them.’
In 2015, some amendments were made to the new law, according to which the ‘IRGC intelligence organization’ was clearly added to the list of special law enforcers. According to the new law and its amendments, apart from the trained personnel of the Iranian law enforcement forces – as the main law enforcers – the agents of the Intelligence Ministry, the IRGC Intelligence Organization, the Basij and ‘other armed forces in cases in which part or all of the duties of the law enforcers are assigned to them’ can be considered as law enforcers.
A significant difference within the new law compared with the one ratified in 1998 is that the role of the IRGC as an institute which can be a law enforcer in certain cases is not separately emphasized, even though two subdivision organizations of the IRGC – i.e. the Basij and the IRGC intelligence organization – are mentioned as law enforcers in special cases.
Another part of the new law, of course, can include the IRGC indirectly- the part where a group of special law enforcers are considered as ‘other armed forces, in cases in which part or all of the duties of law enforcers are assigned to them.’ But this part of the new law, unlike the old law which made the IRGC’s role as a law enforcer dependent on a case by case ratification by the Supreme Council of National Security, doesn’t mention the role of the council, instead it merely says that the IRGC involvement must be ‘according to law’.
In November 2014 and in continuation of the Criminal Procedure Code, the ‘procedure code for dealing with crimes of armed forces’ too was ratified, in which law enforcers of the armed forces (such as the IRGC) are defined as members of these forces who have been trained to have the ‘necessary skills’ for this duty and have obtained ‘law enforcers’ ID cards’. Nevertheless, if such law enforcers are not present, other ‘officers and ranks of armed forces’ are allowed to confront ‘flagrant crimes’.
Flagrant crimes are those committed ‘in front of the law enforcers’; ‘the abovementioned agents are present in the crime scene immediately or can see the remains of the crime immediately after it is committed’; ’the suspect intends to escape, or is escaping, after committing the crime’ or ‘the suspect is a tramp with a bad reputation in that neighborhood.’ According to Iran’s new Criminal Procedure Code, law enforcers, when there are ‘strong evidences’ indicating commitment of a flagrant crime, can arrest the suspects.
Given such definitions of flagrant crimes, a measure like confronting ‘thugs and hooligans’ –according to the commander of the IRGC in Greater Tehran, is the reason for forming IRGC’s patrols – and will probably be justified formally. However, if the IRGC starts patrolling the streets with the justification of confronting ‘thugs and hooligans’, it is likely that cases like ‘bad hijab’ – as a kind of flagrant crime – will later be put on the agenda of these patrols.
» Referring to IRGC’s Constitution?
Obviously, according to the current Criminal Procedure Code in Iran, it is not impossible to have IRGC forces in the streets as law enforcers, even though the conditions of such an involvement will be strongly interpretable. For example, as mentioned above, according to the 1998 law, the involvement of IRGC forces depends on the ratification of Supreme Council of National Security, but such a condition is no longer specified clearly.
On the other hand, it is proved that whenever there are different interpretations about the IRGC’s involvement in different non-military fields, defenders of such involvement refer to ‘expanded’ laws – which include the IRGC constitution – regarding this armed force.
This constitution gives an open hand to the IRGC in taking a wide range of measures, and it is possible, with interpretation, to consider forming city patrols as one of them.
Clearly, in a part of this constitution, one of the missions of the IRGC has been specified as ‘cooperation with law enforcement in necessary cases to establish order, security, and the rule of law in the country’. It is urged that the IRGC, in fulfilling this mission, ‘acts as a law enforcer of the judiciary branch’.
Of course, even based on this constitution, the IRGC measures in fields like law enforcement are in the form of ‘cooperation’ with police forces, and cannot be unilateral decisions of IRGC commanders.
Meanwhile, yesterday’s announcement of Iran’s Interior Ministry – according to which the police has not asked for IRGC’s help to confront social threats – strengthens this speculation that the announcement of starting IRGC’s patrols has not been coordinated between the law enforcement forces and the Interior Ministry.
Given this lack of coordination, it is not clear if patrolling the capital of Iran by the IRGC is going to happen and the Iranian Interior Ministry’s denial has cast further doubt on this, but eventually there is likely to be an agreement between this ministry and the IRGC in this regard.
Opinions in this article reflect the writer’s point of view, not necessarily the view of The Arabain GCIS