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  • In 1994, I walked into a prison in Cambodia,

  • and I met a 12-year-old boy

  • who had been tortured

  • and was denied access to counsel.

  • And as I looked into his eyes, I realized

  • that for the hundreds of letters I had written

  • for political prisoners, that I would never have

  • written a letter for him,

  • because he was not a 12-year-old boy who

  • had done something important for anybody.

  • He was not a political prisoner.

  • He was a 12-year-old boy who had

  • stolen a bicycle.

  • What I also realized at that point was that

  • it was not only Cambodia, but

  • of the 113

  • developing countries that torture,

  • 93 of these countries have all passed laws

  • that say you have a right to a lawyer

  • and you have a right not to be tortured.

  • And what I recognized was that there was an

  • incredible window of opportunity for us

  • as a world community to come together

  • and end torture as an investigative tool.

  • We often think of torture as being

  • political torture or reserved for

  • just the worst, but, in fact,

  • 95 percent of torture today

  • is not for political prisoners.

  • It is for people who are

  • in broken-down legal systems,

  • and unfortunately because torture is

  • the cheapest form of investigation --

  • it's cheaper than having a legal system,

  • cheaper than having a lawyer

  • and early access to counsel --

  • it is what happens most of the time.

  • I believe today that it is possible for us

  • as a world community, if we make a decision,

  • to come together and end torture

  • as an investigative tool in our lifetime,

  • but it will require three things.

  • First is the training, empowerment,

  • and connection of defenders worldwide.

  • The second is insuring that there is

  • systematic early access to counsel.

  • And the third is commitment.

  • So in the year 2000,

  • I began to wonder,

  • what if we came together?

  • Could we do something

  • for these 93 countries?

  • And I founded International Bridges to Justice

  • which has a specific mission of

  • ending torture as an investigative tool

  • and implementing due process rights

  • in the 93 countries by placing trained lawyers

  • at an early stage in police stations

  • and in courtrooms.

  • My first experiences, though, did come

  • from Cambodia, and at the time I remember

  • first coming to Cambodia and there were,

  • in 1994, still less than

  • 10 attorneys in the country because

  • the Khmer Rouge had killed them all.

  • And even 20 years later, there was only

  • 10 lawyers in the country, so consequently

  • you'd walk into a prison and

  • not only would you meet 12-year-old boys,

  • you'd meet women and you'd say,

  • "Why are you here?" Women would say,

  • "Well I've been here for 10 years because

  • my husband committed a crime, but they can't find him."

  • So it's just a place where there was no rule of law.

  • The first group of defenders came together

  • and I still remember, as I was training, I said,

  • "Okay, what do you do for an investigation?"

  • And there was silence in the class, and finally

  • one woman stood up, [inaudible name],

  • and she said "Khrew," which means "teacher."

  • She said, "I have defended more than

  • a hundred people, and I've never had to do

  • any investigation,

  • because they all come with confessions."

  • And we talked about, as a class, the fact that

  • number one, the confessions

  • might not be reliable, but number two,

  • we did not want to encourage the police

  • to keep doing this, especially

  • as it was now against the law.

  • And it took a lot of courage for these

  • defenders to decide that they would

  • begin to stand up and support each other

  • in implementing these laws.

  • And I still remember the first cases where

  • they came, all 25 together, she would

  • stand up, and they were in the back, and

  • they would support her, and the judges kept

  • saying, "No, no, no, no, we're going to do things

  • the exact same way we've been doing them."

  • But one day the perfect case came, and it

  • was a woman who was a vegetable seller,

  • she was sitting outside of a house.

  • She said she actually saw the person

  • run out who she thinks stole

  • whatever the jewelry was, but the police

  • came, they got her, there was nothing on her.

  • She was pregnant at the time. She had

  • cigarette burns on her. She'd miscarried.

  • And when they brought her case

  • to the judge, for the first time he stood up

  • and he said, "Yes, there's no evidence

  • except for your torture confession

  • and you will be released."

  • And the defenders began to take cases

  • over and over again and

  • you will see, they have step by step began

  • to change the course of history in Cambodia.

  • But Cambodia is not alone.

  • I used to think, well is it Cambodia?

  • Or is it other countries?

  • But it is in so many countries.

  • In Burundi I walked into a prison and it wasn't

  • a 12-year-old boy, it was an 8-year-old boy

  • for stealing a mobile phone.

  • Or a woman, I picked up her baby,

  • really cute baby, I said "Your baby is so cute."

  • It wasn't a baby, she was three.

  • And she said "Yeah, but she's why I'm here,"

  • because she was accused of stealing

  • two diapers and an iron for her baby and

  • still had been in prison.

  • And when I walked up to the prison director,

  • I said, "You've got to let her out.

  • A judge would let her out."

  • And he said, "Okay, we can talk about it,

  • but look at my prison. Eighty percent

  • of the two thousand people here

  • are without a lawyer. What can we do?"

  • So lawyers began to courageously

  • stand up together to organize a system

  • where they can take cases.

  • But we realized that it's not only the training

  • of the lawyers, but the connection

  • of the lawyers that makes a difference.

  • For example, in Cambodia, it was that

  • [inaudible name] did not go alone

  • but she had 24 lawyers with her

  • who stood up together. And in the same way,

  • in China, they always tell me,

  • "It's like a fresh wind in the desert

  • when we can come together."

  • Or in Zimbabwe, where I remember Innocent,

  • after coming out of a prison where everybody

  • stood up and said, "I've been here

  • for one year, eight years, 12 years

  • without a lawyer,"

  • he came and we had a training together

  • and he said, "I have heard it said" --

  • because he had heard people mumbling

  • and grumbling -- "I have heard it said that

  • we cannot help to create justice

  • because we do not have the resources."

  • And then he said, "But I want you to know

  • that the lack of resources

  • is never an excuse for injustice."

  • And with that, he successfully

  • organized 68 lawyers who have been

  • systematically taking the cases.

  • The key that we see, though, is training

  • and then early access.

  • I was recently in Egypt, and was inspired

  • to meet with another group of lawyers,

  • and what they told me is that they said,

  • "Hey, look, we don't have police

  • on the streets now. The police are

  • one of the main reasons why we had

  • the revolution. They were torturing everybody

  • all the time."

  • And I said, "But there's been tens of millions

  • of dollars that have recently gone in

  • to the development of the legal system here.

  • What's going on?"

  • I met with one of the development agencies,

  • and they were training prosecutors

  • and judges, which is the normal bias,

  • as opposed to defenders.

  • And they showed me a manual which

  • actually was an excellent manual.

  • I said, "I'm gonna copy this."

  • It had everything in it. Lawyers can come

  • at the police station. It was perfect.

  • Prosecutors were perfectly trained.

  • But I said to them, "I just have one question,

  • which is, by the time that everybody got to

  • the prosecutor's office, what had happened to them?"

  • And after a pause, they said,

  • "They had been tortured."

  • So the pieces are,

  • not only the training of the lawyers, but

  • us finding a way to systematically implement

  • early access to counsel, because they are

  • the safeguard in the system

  • for people who are being tortured.

  • And as I tell you this, I'm also aware of the

  • fact that it sounds like, "Oh, okay, it sounds

  • like we could do it, but can we really do it?"

  • Because it sounds big.

  • And there are many reasons why I believe it's possible.

  • The first reason is the people on the ground

  • who find ways of creating miracles

  • because of their commitment.

  • It's not only Innocent, who I told you about

  • in Zimbabwe, but defenders all over the world

  • who are looking for these pieces.

  • We have a program called JusticeMakers,

  • and we realized there are people that are

  • courageous and want to do things, but

  • how can we support them?

  • So it's an online contest where it's only

  • five thousand dollars if you come up with

  • and innovative way of implementing justice.

  • And there are 30 JusticeMakers

  • throughout the world, from Sri Lanka

  • to Swaziland to the DRC, who with

  • five thousand dollars do amazing things,

  • through SMS programs,

  • through paralegal programs,

  • through whatever they can do.

  • And it's not only these JusticeMakers,

  • but people we courageously see

  • figure out who their networks are

  • and how they can move it forward.

  • So in China, for instance, great laws

  • came out where it says police cannot

  • torture people or they will be punished.

  • And I was sitting side by side with one of our

  • very courageous lawyers, and said,

  • "How can we get this out? How can we

  • make sure that this is implemented?

  • This is fantastic." And he said to me,

  • "Well, do you have money?" And I said,

  • "No." And he said, "That's okay,

  • we can still figure it out."

  • And on December 4, he organized

  • three thousand members

  • of the Youth Communist League,

  • from 14 of the top law schools,

  • who organized themselves, developed

  • posters with the new laws, and went

  • to the police stations and began what he says

  • is a non-violent legal revolution

  • to protect citizen rights.

  • So I talked about the fact that we need

  • to train and support defenders.

  • We need to systematically implement

  • early access to counsel.

  • But the third and most important thing is that

  • we make a commitment to this.

  • And people often say to me, "You know,

  • this is great, but it's wildly idealistic.

  • Never going to happen."