TrialWatch monitors criminal trials around the world with a focus on vulnerable groups and cases in which there is a high risk that prosecutors and judges may be complicit in human rights abuses. We cover cases involving:
A growing number of governments treat journalists who criticize them as ideological enemies, and reporters are imprisoned for just doing their job. The last few years have seen the highest numbers of journalists imprisoned than at any time in the last three decades, while the murder of journalists goes unpunished in 9 out of 10 cases. Our statements, reports, and advocacy have focused on the numerous laws around the world that are being weaponized against the press: from terrorist propaganda laws in Turkey to recently enacted ‘fake news’ legislation in Russia, to criminal defamation and sedition laws in India, Thailand, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Morocco, and Peru. We are also tracking the trials of journalists amid the ongoing crackdown in Hong Kong.
Women and girls in many countries around the world can be prosecuted for ‘moral’ offenses such as adultery or ‘acts incompatible with chastity.’ For instance, two women in a case TrialWatch monitored in Egypt were charged with violating “family principles and values” for photos and videos that they posted of themselves on social media in which they were singing and dancing. In other places, women who report rape or harassment are prosecuted for spurious crimes or can be prosecuted for the ‘crime’ of abortion. And in El Salvador, women who have suffered miscarriages have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms for alleged murder.
Persons who identify or are perceived as LGBTQ+. Over 70 countries criminalize same-sex relations, including Nigeria where 47 men were recently charged with violation of Nigeria’s Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act. And it is subject to the death penalty in at least 11 jurisdictions. In Iran, a 31-year-old man was convicted of sodomy and publicly hanged. And mass arrests of gay men in Egypt have led to 6-year sentences for men who were simply waving a rainbow flag at a concert.
Insulting religion can lead to imprisonment in more than 40 countries, including Indonesia, where TrialWatch recently monitored a blasphemy trial. In 6 of these countries, blasphemy is punishable by execution. In Pakistan, a Christian woman named Asia Bibi was sentenced to death by hanging and spent 8 years on death row after an unfair trial in which she was convicted for insulting Islam. And in India, individuals protesting the exclusion of the Muslim minority from the Citizenship Amendment Act have been arrested.
In every region, there is also a growing risk for human rights defenders—protesters seeking to effect change, and the lawyers, judges, politicians, and activists trying to protect those at risk. TrialWatch is monitoring multiple cases in Hong Kong and Thailand on this basis.