The following is a summary of an interview conducted with Courtney Marasigan related to her intern experience with the Center for Global Justice at Regent University’s School of Law.
Courtney Marasigan is a first generation American possessing a passion for the law. She resides in Palm Beach, FL with parents who are immigrants from the Philippines.
As part of her intern experience Courtney served for seven weeks in Uganda beginning May 31, 2015 with a return to the United States on July 19, 2015. She was accompanied to Uganda by one other Regent University intern where they worked on a variety of projects each week of their service. Courtney’s work centered on the heart-tugging issues of torture and human trafficking.
Q: Describe the authority structure you served under while in Uganda?
My work and service were under the authority of the Directorate of Public Prosecutors (commonly referred to as the DPP). The authority structure would be the equivalent to the US Attorney General. The position includes authority over all prosecutors in Uganda and is currently held by Justice Mike Chibita.
Q: What was one of the most important projects assigned to you?
I was instructed to write a report on the current state of torture legislation in Uganda. The report’s focus centered on the Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act (Anti-Torture Law). The Act was enacted by the Ugandan legislature in 2012. Since the law’s enactment, over 1,000 civil complaints of torture have been made. Unfortunately, only one (1) case of torture has been tried criminally.
Q: What legal dimensions were covered as part of your report?
That’s an important question for the genesis of my work. Justice Mike Chibita (Director of the DPP), who is responsible for instituting criminal proceedings in all Ugandan courts, requested my fellow interns and I to write a multi-faceted report that researched the history of torture in Uganda and the legal basis for the Act. We set about our work by surveying anti-torture legislation in other countries as a comparison to the Ugandan Act. This allowed us to analyze the pitfalls of the Act and further to offer suggestions for improving the Act’s implementation.
Q: Was there an interesting discovery you made while doing your research on the Ugandan Act?
An interesting truth I discovered during my research was that India had failed to implement an Anti-Torture Act. The authorities viewed such an Act as an ineffective tool to combat torture and human trafficking.
Q: What other projects were included as part of your internship?
I researched a significant amount of case law related to torture. Additionally, I was handed a draft anti-torture memorandum and asked to review it before its final submission. The work was very detailed since I had to review it line by line, word by word. I believe that words matter in life, and they certainly matter in the Law. One comma in the wrong place or a single misinterpreted word can change the meaning of an entire sentence. This could have dire impact ultimately on the memorandum. I felt the importance and gravity of my work because an erroneous word and/or punctuation mark could result in a predator being released or found not guilty in a criminal proceeding.
Q: Thinking about the variety of projects you worked on, which was the most impactful for you?
I would have to say my work on the Anti-Torture Act and the High Profile Terrorism report.
Q: What surprised you the most about your internship experience?
I discovered that the people of Uganda are warm, loving, and kind. They have created a very relaxed, low stress culture that values the simple things in life. To me, these are great qualities to have in a culture. However, when attempting to prosecute child predators the lazed environment and inefficiencies can potentially act as a hindrance to holding predators accountable to the nation’s laws.
Q: What next steps do you see for your future in the Law?
I’d like to continue my focus on Human Rights law and become a prosecutor in the NY or DC areas. At this time I’m not certain if I want to work in private practice, for the government, or in not-for-profit world. Whatever I decide to do I’m confident the Lord will direct my path.
Although I have not ruled out additional trips abroad in the future, should the Lord lead, for now, I’d like to gain legal experience within the USA.
That being said my ultimate career goal after gaining many years of experience prosecuting cases here in the USA would be starting my own not-for-profit in a third world country, perhaps, the Philippines.
Q: What life impact would you like to have?
Succinctly put, it would be both to protect children and be an advocate for those who have no voice and/or unnoticed voices.
Q: How has this trip and internship experience changed you?
I am humbled by all that I saw including the human depravity and poverty within the Ugandan country. The people are forced to make choices each day for water, food and/or electricity. They live very simply and yet they have such joy. I was truly humbled to understand what really matters.
I’ve walked away from my experience with an even more grateful heart. Now, I desire a simpler and more focused life. One that is free of “the noise and busyness of activities.” As a result, I desire to focus upon that which really matters each day. I was reminded that Jesus was never busy; He lived a simple and free life, free of activities yet filled with purpose and importance.
Interestingly enough, I thought being busy and active meant I was important since the busier you are the more important you must be. For me, that has changed significantly as an outcome of my internship experience.
Q: Have there been any side effects from your trip?
Well, my parents have noticed a change in my heart and attitude since I returned from Uganda. My father jokingly asked: “Courtney, do you think we can send your brother to Uganda.”
Q: How has Regent equipped me thus far?
Candidly, my first year at Regent was tough. I met many wonderful men and women of God and began to compare myself to them. I asked myself how I measured up to them. I know that I’m outgoing and bold. They are quiet and thoughtful. So, for a while I experienced challenges in understanding God’s plan for my life. I knew I loved the Law and thought the Rule of Law was a safe path. I never realized until now that God had another plan and would use my personality for His glory. This helped me to discover that I have talents I never knew. For instance, I love debating and talking, and advocating for those who have no voice. I love being in the court room and love arguing my point.
Q: What closing comments would you like to leave for the readers?
Love each day. Live life with humility and thanksgiving for all you have. Things don’t matter; people matter. Live a simple and grateful life. I know that is how I am living my life now.
by Annette Curtiss