Fighting for prisoners in DR CongoDemocratic-Republic-of-the-Congo, Kinshasa
Albert was conscripted as a child soldier. At age 17, he wanted to change his life and asked to be discharged. He was then sent to prison, and since he had no money, no judgment could take place. He stayed for two years, barely surviving … Until the day when volunteers of the BAJPD met him and helped him to be released
To come to the rescue of prisoners such as Albert, Fidesco created the BAJPD (in English, The Office of Legal Aid to Poor Prisoners) in 2003. The BAJPD exists to plead the cause of the prisoners, so that they can be judged and either be released or serve just sentences.
A team of volunteers go to the central prison in Kinshasa to meet with about a dozen prisoners a week. While there, they not only offers legal advice, but also help them with the psychological support they need to deal with the hostile conditions.
BAJPD lawyers (4 in Kinshasa, and 2 in Lubumbashi) then handle over 200 prisoners cases – men, women, children, who otherwise would not have been represented and possibly not even judged.
But the task is immense: in January 2009, Congolese lawyers ran a study on prisoners detained unjustly. They discovered that many had starved to death before having been tried.
The BAJPD finds its funding from private donors solicited by Fidesco. The organization works to fight against corruption by refusing to pay bribes, and by also organizing awareness campaigns in the legal community of the Democratic Republic of Congo.