In every region, there is a growing risk for human rights defenders — the lawyers, judges, politicians, and activists trying to protect vulnerable people. TrialWatch is monitoring multiple cases of lawyers arrested for their work defending the human rights of others.

Human Rights Lawyer Imprisoned in Cambodia

Expressing political views should not have been the basis for criminal charges, let alone a conviction and prison sentence. Cambodia must stop misusing its laws to criminalize dissent.

TrialWatch expert Andrew Khoo, co-chair of the Malaysian Bar Council’s Constitutional Law Committee

Cambodian-American lawyer Theary Seng, who lost both of her parents to the Khmer Rouge and still returned to Cambodia to work on human rights, is now in jail in a remote facility on the Thai border, far from her lawyer and family. A report from TrialWatch, a Clooney Foundation for Justice (CFJ) Initiative, gives the proceedings an F grade, finding that the trial was “a travesty of justice.” CFJ’s partner, the American Bar Association Center for Human Rights, monitored Ms. Seng’s case on behalf of TrialWatch. Ms. Seng’s appeal against her conviction is pending.

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Russian Lawyer Convicted for "Assaulting The Police"

Mikhail Benyash

In March 2023, 45-year-old Russian human rights lawyer Mikhail Benyash was convicted for allegedly assaulting police officers despite evidence they in fact assaulted him. Benyash was first put on trial and convicted for the alleged assault in 2019. His conviction was overturned after an appeal in which the defense presented TrialWatch’s findings. Benyash had been representing anti-war protestors and soldiers who refused to fight in Ukraine before the Russian authorities deployed a range of tactics to stop him, including this second conviction, his disbarment, and his placement on a ‘foreign agents’ list.

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The courts should not be weaponized against those who are themselves protecting the fair trial rights of vulnerable individuals targeted by the authorities.

Amal Clooney, CFJ Co-Founder

Belarusian Lawyer Convicted and Disbarred

Human rights lawyer Lyudmila Kazak, who at the time was representing opposition figure Maria Kolesnikova, was grabbed by three men while on her way to a hearing and forced into an unmarked car.  Initially told she was being charged with participating in an ‘unauthorized protest,’ she was eventually charged and convicted of disobeying police orders.  Her case is one among fifteen unfair post-election cases in Belarus that were monitored by TrialWatch; but it’s also exemplary of Belarus’s crackdown on the lawyers who take on the authorities, as she was subsequently disbarred based on this conviction, precluding her from representing Ms. Kolesnikova.

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It appears that Ms. Kazak was prosecuted for her work defending an opposition leader, in violation of guarantees against abuse of the judicial process.

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