Thanks to your support, the International Legal Foundation has been able to expand into Myanmar, where last month we opened our newest office in Pathein, Myanmar’s fifth largest city. Since opening the office, the ILF has been fighting for the release of the many children who are languishing in detention for petty offenses without access to a lawyer. In our first case, and first win for the office, our two newest Myanmar lawyers, Daw Twe and Daw Phyu secured the release of three young boys – 11, 12 and 14 years of age – who had been languishing in jail for over 30 days on the petty offense of stealing some wire from a construction site they had been playing in.
This case illustrates why the ILF’s work is so important; without access to counsel, children as young as 7-years old are routinely arrested and charged with petty offenses in Myanmar. The ILF’s work on behalf of these children is pioneering as few of them have access to a lawyer when arrested by the police. As a result, they languish in detention for weeks and months, unable to defend themselves or to contact their families for help. The ILF is looking to change this unjust practice by providing early and effective legal aid services to all children and by challenging their arrest and detention by the police. Supported by the ILF’s program director Holly Hobart, our newest Pathein lawyers sprung into action when the police contacted them to let them know that three young boys were languishing in detention without access to a lawyer. They fought to keep the court open on a Friday afternoon so that the boys could be released before the end of the day. We are incredibly proud of the hard work and commitment of our ILF team in making this happen.
This story is not unique to Myanmar. In too many countries around the world, people are being arrested and convicted for minor offenses, which puts them in contact with violent offenders and keeps them out of schools. The ILF is working to address this challenge by fighting to divert these cases into family or community based alternatives, and by expanding into new countries around the world. With your help, this past year we conducted legal needs assessments in Laos and Bangladesh, where we discovered a critical need for legal aid services to address injustices in those countries. And we are happy to report that as a result of our assessment in Laos, funded with support from GlobalGiving, the ILF has partnered with The Asia Foundation to open a new legal aid project there, under a grant from USAID!
Because of your support, our work is being recognized at a wider scope than ever before. At a recent international conference we co-hosted in Georgia, dozens of countries, inspired by evidence of real change that the ILF has created around the world, asked for us to help them reform their legal aid systems. In 2019, we hope to be able to continue to meet this critical call for assistance. In recognition of your support, GlobalGiving is offering to match up to $150,000 in donations over the next 24 hours. Please, show your support for those impacted by unfair and arbitrary abuses of justice this holiday season. Donate today. Thank you.