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Trial abuse to be exposed “one case at a time”

By Dr David Cowan

02 May 2019 at 06:08 BST

The Clooney Foundation joins forces with partners to launch TrialWatch initiative in systematic approach to highlight abuse at trial worldwide.


The Clooney Foundation for Justice (CFJ), together with partners Microsoft Corporation, Columbia Law School, the American Bar Association, and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), have launched a “groundbreaking initiative” called TrialWatch.

"One case at a time"

“Courts around the world are increasingly being used to silence dissidents and target the vulnerable. But so far there has been no systematic response to this," said Amal Clooney, Co-President, Clooney Foundation for Justice. "The Clooney Foundation for Justice's TrialWatch program is a global initiative to monitor trials, expose abuses, and advocate for victims, so that injustice can be addressed, one case at a time." TrialWatch is an initiative focused on monitoring and responding to trials around the world that pose a high risk of human rights violations. TrialWatch aims to be the first comprehensive global program scrutinizing criminal trials around the world. CFJ will recruit and train trial monitors, including non-lawyers, who can observe and report on criminal trials around the world, and use a specialised app to record the proceedings. The Clooney Foundation for Justice will then work to expose injustice and rally support to secure justice for defendants whose rights have been violated. For each trial monitored, CFJ will work with an eminent legal expert to produce a Fairness Report assessing and grading the fairness of the trial against human rights standards, and, where necessary and possible, will be followed up with legal advocacy to assist a defendant in pursuing remedies in regional or international human rights courts. Ultimately, the data that is gathered will populate a global justice index that measures states' performance in this area.

"Purest form of advocacy"

TrialWatch will focus on trials involving journalists, LGBTQ persons, women and girls, religious minorities, and human rights defenders. In recent months, TrialWatch monitors have observed proceedings in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and Latin America. The cases have involved journalists being prosecuted under a wide variety of laws, including cyber laws, administrative laws, and terrorism laws, in six countries. “This is human rights advocacy in its purest form," said United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet. At the launch event, CFJ co-presidents George and Amal Clooney, Brad Smith, president of Microsoft, Bob Carlson, president of the American Bar Association (ABA), Lee C Bollinger, president of Columbia University, and Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights participated in a panel discussion about TrialWatch. You can find the TrialWatch training course here.


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