“I Want to Give the Law Back to the People”

Photo by Marc Beckmann

When Kimberley Motley went to Afghanistan in 2008 to train local lawyers, she had planned to go back to the United States after eight months. But she stayed. And became the first foreigner to litigate in Afghanistan: an outspoken, seemingly fearless woman of African-American and North Korean descent.

During those first months in Afghanistan, she had noticed a deep resentment of the people against the country’s formal legal system. Instead of consulting trained lawyers, people rather sought the guidance of religious leaders or village elders. These traditional methods were not only illegal but also lead to unjust and often cruel sentences. Her mission was born to “give the law back to the people.”

Kimberley opened her own practice in Kabul, representing foreigners who were being detained in Afghan prisons, but also started taking on Afghan human rights cases: among them child kidnapping, domestic abuse, and women accused of adultery.

Kimberley grew up in an area in Milwaukee which was infamous for its criminality.  Early on, she developed an interest in the law. Kimberley received a B.A. and M.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee as well as a Joint Degree from Marquette University Law School. She commutes mainly between Kabul and North Carolina where her husband and three children live.

Kimberley Motley was a participant at the BMW Foundation Global Table in Bogota in May 2017.

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