By Rachel Aicher, Director of Advocacy & Partnerships
Amidst all the world’s upheaval, we have some good news.
On Sunday, May 3, our client Brishna left the Pul-e-Charkhi Prison in Afghanistan, released as part of a special amnesty and due to the fierce advocacy of ILF lawyers. We worked with Brishna to ensure she could enter a women's shelter upon release. A few days later, she was reunited with her sister.
Like all too many Afghan women, Brishna is a survivor of gender-based violence. When the same cousin who abused and assaulted her lashed out and killed her son, he put the blame on Brishna. Eventually, the cousin was convicted of murder. Yet instead of receiving the gender-sensitive and trauma-informed care she needed, Brishna was denied victim services, wrongly convicted as an accessory to murder, and sentenced to 18 years imprisonment.
The ILF took on Brishna’s case in June 2018, shortly after her arrest. Our Afghan lawyers fought for her all the way up to the Supreme Court, but Brishna faced discrimination at every level. In January 2020, the Attorney General’s Office informed us that the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold her conviction would not be reconsidered. We prepared to pursue our last option: a presidential pardon.
Then, the coronavirus pandemic ravaged neighboring Iran, threatening to spread into Afghanistan and putting prison populations at heightened risk. We sounded the alarm, issuing an urgent call to action for the Afghan justice sector to release detainees and reduce prison populations. In late March, the President’s Special Amnesty Decree paved the way for the release of thousands of people behind bars, including nearly all women. Still, for weeks, many women remained in prison--including Brishna. With pro bono support from an incredibly committed team at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, we immediately submitted a petition for Brishna’s release under the amnesty. Finally, on May 3, she was freed.
Brishna is one of hundreds of people whose release we’ve helped secure during this pandemic. We continue to fight for the millions of people still trapped in jails and prisons around the world.