This last week the whole office has been on emotional high. I am so privileged to have witnessed these events; being the eyes and ears for IJM.
On Tuesday one of our child sexual abuse clients was vindicated as her attacker was put away for 20 years. On Thursday two young illegal detention clients – 17 and 23 were exonerated and finally acquitted of all false charges held against them. They are now free to rebuild their lives. Resuming education and earning a living for their family.
Then on the same day THE most exciting news ever: our 78-year old illegal detention client, who has been behind bars for the past 18 months; who has been fasted and prayed for; tears shed for; two years of hard slog for – was granted bail pending appeal in a historic ruling, allowing him to be free and stay with his family, in his own home whilst awaiting the next appeal hearing.
Earlier in the week, I had a post all written up, approved and ready to go, but then Thursday took over and rolled right on into Friday without a breather… So here’s what I meant to say:
Caught in Court
On Tuesday I accompanied one of our legal interns to the judgment hearing in a case for one of our child sexual abuse (CSA) clients called Leandra*. This was an interesting experience for me because it was the first time that I had been inside the court room for a judgment hearing. I’ve been outside the court room for a when a judgment has been read. I’ve been inside the court room for a few mentions and adjournments, but this was the first judgment I had attended.
No big deal right? You rock up to court and wait for the magistrate to read the verdict. If it’s favourable you celebrate and if not, well then… that’s another story. All well and good, except my line of thinking was completely devoid of all the emotions that could rise to the surface as a result of the hearing.
Leandra had been abducted by the perpetrator and was missing for 5 days. He moved her around to different locations and raped her repeatedly. Leandra and her family suffered much trauma during this ordeal. “I lost my mind during that time, forgetting where I kept my keys” remarked Leandra’s mother as we waited for court session to start.
So when the judgment was read, it was little wonder that a normally composed Mama-Leandra wept. She was so nervous before the verdict. As the magistrate was reading out the charges, my stomach was doing somersaults. “May the results be in our favour. Please God, these people have suffered.” I became anxious for Leandra and her family. At the same time, it was eery watching the accused at the dock, looking subdued, even shedding tears. “But you knew you were taking advantage of a young girl. Her life is forever changed now because of you”. It was even more somber seeing him turn and look at his father in the gallery as he was led away. Sentenced to 20 years in prison.
I’m glad I was there. It put some flesh and bones on a case I’ve read and have chatted to my colleagues a few times about. To see with my own eyes a concerned mother, vindicated on behalf of her daughter.
*Real name withheld to protect the identity of our client.
The Beauty of Justice
Like I mentioned earlier, Thursday was an even more victorious day. It felt like the heavens had literally opened up and these two stunning judgements fell into our laps. Of course, this was not the case at all. For these three clients our team (including many past interns/fellows and staff) have worked so hard. It has been a journey of much toil, heartbreak and now incredible joy! For me to have witnessed history being made in seeing 78-year old Michael walk free, it is an immense privilege (I’m still smiling as write this).
I attended the high court along with our Field Office Director, legal Fellow John Ramsey and a former IJM employee who is now the principal of the Kenya National Commission for Human Rights. These people have done a huge amount of work on Michael’s case, so this hearing was very special to them. As soon as the judge started to read Michael’s name I literally stopped breathing. By the time he was done, John and I looked at eachother and ran out of the court room: relief, joy, amazement, gratitude… Only a few things we were feeling.
The rest of the day was intensely long and emotional as we had to wait for all the necessary signatures on the release documentation at the courthouse that would allow Michael to go home that very day. At the prison, I was joined by two of our Aftercare staff as we waited along with Michael’s excited family for 3 hours. Our Field Office Director had to seek sought signatures, documentation, etc to get Michael released. Eventually he walked through the prison gates in good spirits, victorious and free! It was a beautiful sight.
Please visit the IJM site and read about Michael’s story, complete with the images I captured on the day :).
God sets the lonely in families,[c]
he leads out the prisoners with singing – Psalm 68:6