On my first Monday at work I conducted my first client interview. One of my responsibilities this summer as an intern for IBJ is to write 'success stories' about cases where IBJ has been able to help clients successfully resolve their legal problems. The IBJ head office uses these stories to let people know about the work done by their country offices.
The client I interviewed lives in a small village outside Phnom Penh. While he was a teenager, he was accused of rape by the parents of the girl he had been dating. The couple had broken up, and the girl's parents felt he had damaged their daughter's honor by not marrying her. After mediation between the two families by the commune chief, the client's family thought the issue had been resolved. The girl's parents requested that the court withdraw their complaint. The client went on to meet and marry his wife, and the girl met and married someone with whom she now has five children.
Unfortunately, and unbeknownst to either family, because the victim herself had not requested that the complaint be withdrawn, the case was still pending. Seven years after the initial complaint had been filed, the police showed up at the house where the client lived with his wife, baby son and elderly parents. They told him that the judge would soon issue a warrant for his arrest for the years-old rape charges. Fearing his family would not survive without the income he made working in construction, the client fled to Phnom Penh rather than go to jail.
His wife attended all the preliminary hearings. When the final trial date was set, he decided to come back and face the outcome, rather than live apart from his family. Fortunately, his case was assigned to Chan Reasypheak, a lawyer from the IBJ Phnom Penh office. She was able to convince the girl's family to write a letter to the court requesting the charges be dropped. This evidence, in combination with the lawyer's arguments that there was no physical evidence of rape in the inquisition, was enough for the judge to dismiss the complaint against the client.
Now he is back at home in his village with his wife parents and son. He works nearby, still in construction. He says he was happy when he found out he had a lawyer, it gave him hope that he would win his case. He believes that letter the lawyer obtained from the girl's family is why he is now free.