Since International Bridges to Justice was founded in 2000, IBJ-trained lawyers have secured acquittals for hundreds of ordinary citizens trapped in dysfunctional criminal justice systems around the world. Common themes run through these cases: confessions induced by torture, police-fabricated evidence, and periods of prolonged pre-trial detention often longer than the maximum sentence upon conviction of the crime charged. These needless injustices continue to plague criminal justice systems worldwide and cannot be ignored.
These cases are proof that IBJ’s model of early access to counsel can make a real difference in the lives of indigent defendants. The cost of providing legal assistance to an indigent defendant in the developing world is staggeringly low — as little as $250 in some countries
Country: Sri Lanka
Arrest Date: February 28, 2003
Charge: Possession and Sale of Heroine
Release Date: February 22, 2011 (acquittal)
Length of pre-trial detention: 9 years
On February 22, 2011, IBJ-trained lawyer Harshi C. Pererra secured the release of Somawathi. She was held in Welikada prison in pre-trial detention for over 9 years, making 58 trial appearances during this time. Facts indicate that the police fabricated the evidence against Somawathi. Now a free woman, Somwathi is homeless and unable to locate her family following the destruction of their home in 2004 by a tsunami.
Arrest Date: 2009
Release Date: October 22, 2010 (acquittal)
Length of pre-trial detention: 1 year -
Seventeen-year-old Samuel spent a year in pre-trial detention before IBJ volunteer lawyer Niyodusenga Aline discovered his case. The prosecution’s case against Samuel consisted solely of accusations by the alleged victim’s father, who lacked any first hand knowledge of the alleged crime. Following Niyodusenga Aline’s involvement with the case, the court quickly acquitted Samuel of all charges.
Name: Afsana Khatoon
Country: West Bengal, India
Arrest Date: 2008
Charge: Trespassing and Theft
Release Date: 5 months later (complaint dismissed)
Length of pre-trial detention: 5 months -
Fifteen-year-old Afsana Khatoon was arrested for suspicion of trespassing and stealing from the home of a well-known lawyer in her community. From the beginning, Afsana asserted her innocence. Police investigation of her bedroom and family’s home failed to recover any stolen property. Despite the absence of any evidence and contrary to India’s Juvenile Justice Act, which forbids the detention of a minor, Afsana was placed in a detention facility to await trial. After several months in pre-trial detention, during which Afsana’s family was denied visitation rights, Afsana’s father finally learned about an IBJ local NGO partner, MASUM, providing free representation to indigent defendants. A MASUM affiliated lawyer immediately took the case under the supervision of IBJ Fellow, Abhijit Datta. Five months after her initial detention and only days after MASUM took the case, Afsana was released. The judge ruled that the complaint lacked sufficient evidence and that the police had illegally detained her.
Arrest Date: February 1, 2010
Release Date: November 16, 2010 (aquittal)
Length of pre-trial detention: 9 months -
On February 1, 2010, S’s neighbor was found dead in her home. She had been stabbed to death and her cell phone was missing. A farmer and father of five in Prey Veng, S was accused of murder. While in police custody, he was kicked, slapped and hit with a stick to convince him to confess. None-the-less, he continued to maintain his innocence. IBJ lawyer So Bengtharun took Mr. S’s case on February 5th. After a thorough investigation, Mr. Bengharun was able to produce a local medicine seller who testified that Mr. S had been home the entire night of the crime caring for his sick son. He further discovered that a second suspect fled the jurisdiction after the court issued a warrant for his arrest. The investigation also discovered that evidence alleged to have been found at the scene of the crime was actually taken from the defendant by police while he was in prison. Finally, during Mr. S’s nine months in pre-trial detention, witnesses testified that goods alleged to have been stolen during the crime were sold at market. Based on the evidence, Mr. S. was acuitted of murder on 16 November 2010.
Arrest Date: August 1999
Release Date: April 18, 2011
Length ofSentence: 12 years, four times maximum three-year sentence -
On April 18, 2011, the Delhi High Court ordered the release of Rahul who spent four times his jail term in Tihar prison. Rahul was released after spending 12 years in jail after IBJ Fellow Ajay Verma showed that Rahul was a minor when crime was allegedly committed. Evidence had been produced at the defendant’s original trial that the defendant was under 18 years of age. However, the court overlooked the evidence and sentenced the defendant as an adult.Read more here.