Monday, May 04, 2009

Acting White: Samantha Orobator Battles Weak Rule of Law

A 20 year-old Nigerian-born Brit, Samantha Orobator, sits curiously 5 months pregnant into an 8 month stay in a Laotian prison, on charges of attempting to smuggle 680 kilograms (1.5lbs.) of heroin out of the country. Conviction carries a mandatory death sentence. It is fair to say Ms. Orobator is headed for a ‘kangaroo’ court, if you know much about Laos. I have no idea of this woman’s innocence or guilt in the matter, but she is fighting at least two up-hill battles.

The first battle pertains to getting into trouble in a country, like Laos, with a trailing rule of law. This means things like due process, right to counsel, right to control one's own defense, right to summon witnesses, right of cross-examination, right to exclude evidence that is improperly obtained, chain of custody, hearsay, right to appeal, etc. do not apply. The second battle is getting into trouble in a place where your home country carry’s little or no weight - diplomatic, military, foreign aid, or otherwise.

If she is guilty, then she will pay a heavy price and there is little to do. If she is innocent, but guilty of not knowing or paying attention to where she was and the threat that accompanied her, she deserves all the help in the world. For instance, you never check luggage through places like Laos or allow others to touch even your carry-on (at curbside). As an inadvertent mule, bad things would have awaited her on the back-end of her journey. For now, we should assume her innocence and hope that heightened media attention (including bloggers) kicks governmental pressure into high-gear. She deserves fairness and is clearly not getting it.

Stay Tuned.

James C. Collier

Update: Interesting BBC article explaining some of the cynicism.


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Anonymous said...

This was covered on the BBC. She is not going to be killed. She might be exchanged for other prisoners I assume that are in England. She is also pregnant knocked up in prison. She is guilty as hell but no doubt stupid and was used by someone that forgot to tell her how harsh penalties are in some countries for what she did. Some guilt ridden lawyer I think from England or US is on way to help her out. She should be left to rot there are more deserving people that need help.

ogunsiron said...

This is not the 1st article i see involving nigerians emprisoned for drugs in east-asia . Had she been caught in Singapore, she'd be on her way to the firing squad. She probably had no clear idea of what she was getting involved in, but you bet the nigerian pimps and criminals who hired her knew full well what she was risking. And they didn't care.

Anonymous said...

I tend to get the impression that emigrated Nigerians are less respectful of the law than other groups, because no one actually trusts the institutions of law within Nigeria itself.

Anonymous said...

Wow all of these comments are extremely ignorant. Well from the coverage i've seen I think she is innocent and does anyone care that she was clearly raped in prison?