Our Impact

Our eye witness accounts from monitors, statements, reports, and advocacy have exposed the numerous laws around the world that are being weaponized against the vulnerable. We have worked to get archaic laws overturned, unfair sentences thrown out, perpetrators behind bars, and persecuted men and women out of prison. You can read more about our impact below.

Monitoring Impact

In a number of our cases, we have seen how a monitor’s presence can in itself have a direct impact.  For instance, in the Abelino Chub case in Guatemala, local partners relayed that their view that the monitor’s presence in the courtroom affected the outcome of the case – an acquittal.

 

Ahmed Manseri

The treatment of Mr. Manseri’s case differed significantly from the treatment of any other case heard that day.

TrialWatch monitor on the case of Ahmed Manseri

Ahmed Manseri is an Algerian blogger subjected to frivolous legal allegations on multiple occasions. In one case, after he was allegedly assaulted by police, Mr. Manseri was charged with criminal defamation for bringing this police misconduct to light.

According to the TrialWatch monitor who attended his trial and who saw several other trials on the same day as Mr. Manseri’s, the monitor’s presence appeared to have had a positive impact. The monitor reported “that the treatment of Mr. Manseri’s case differed significantly from the treatment of any other case heard that day”, with Mr. Manseri’s case allocated significantly more time. Mr. Manseri, who was ultimately acquitted, and his lawyer said that they doubted Mr. Manseri would have been allowed to go home but for the presence of the monitor.

 

Stella Nyanzi

My case was immediately elevated. And the prosecutors . . . the magistrate . . . they should have been on alert to know that someone else other than themselves was monitoring the process and going to give a grade.

Dr. Stella Nyanzi, Ugandan women’s rights activist

Reporting Impact

TrialWatch has issued many Fairness Reports assessing the trial process, so that there is now objective data and an expert assessment of what happened at trial instead of a ‘he said/she said’ analysis or bare denials by autocratic regimes. These reports have identified a variety of human rights violations.

We have also routinely spoken out about abuses when they occur. For instance, we urged the release of Omoyele Sowore, who was being detained in Nigeria despite a court order releasing him on bail. He was then set free pending trial.

In numerous cases, our reports have been submitted by defense counsel to national courts of appeal. And we have used them to conduct advocacy before courts and human rights bodies internationally.

Our statements and reports have also been picked up by a wide range of local and international outlets. TrialWatch’s reporting on the trial of ‘Hotel Rwanda’ figure Paul Rusesabagina, for example, led to CNN pressing the now ex-Rwandan Minister of Justice live on air to answer questions raised by our work. After his conviction, our assessment of the case was covered  by the New York TimesWashington PostFinancial TimesCNNAl Jazeera, and Voice of America, among others.

 

Dian Abdullah

Political speech that causes ‘discomfort’ should not be prosecuted. Instead of adding to its tally of prosecutions based on vague laws, Malaysia should dismiss the charges against Dian Abdullah and make good on its offer to review some of the legislation at issue.

Stephen Townley - TrialWatch Legal Director

In Malaysia, TrialWatch monitored the proceedings against a blogger, Dian Abdullah, prosecuted for posts critical of the King and Prime Minister. She was charged with making statements that might “cause fear or unrest to the public” and “offensive communication.” The only evidence presented was the testimony of a police officer who stated that one of the posts might cause “discomfort” and the testimony of a second officer who said that one of the posts was “derogatory and nasty.”

After a TrialWatch report criticized the case, the prosecution agreed to settle the case for a fine. We are now seeking to use the data gathered from the court monitoring to file an amicus brief supporting a constitutional challenge to the ‘offensive communication’ law under which Ms. Abdullah was prosecuted.

Advocacy Impact

Our statements, reports, and advocacy have not only exposed the numerous laws around the world that are being weaponized against vulnerable groups, but also help the press to report on court proceedings and show how discrimination plays out in courtrooms.

 

Hajar Raissouni

Through my experience, I think that TrialWatch is important because it documented all events and exposed human rights violations. and this is important for political detainees who are released from prison with nothing BUT their dignity.

Hajar Raissouni - Journalist in Morocco

Moroccan journalist Hajar Raissouni was charged with the ‘crimes’ of abortion and extra-marital sex. She was forced to undergo a non-consensual medical exam, denied access to a lawyer, and interrogated by officers who asked about her journalism rather than the alleged crimes. She was ultimately convicted on all charges and sentenced to one year in prison.

The TrialWatch Fairness Report, authored by a senior lawyer at the International Bar Association, gave the trial a grade of “D,” noting that the judge “treated an unsigned statement presented by the prosecutor as a confession by Ms. Raissouni, despite the fact that she denied making it.” TrialWatch monitoring in the case helped to put pressure on authorities, and she was later pardoned and freed.

 

Gulzhan Pasanova

We hope the UN will take prompt action—not only to remedy the violations in this particular case, but to urge Kyrgyzstan to reform how it handles trials involving survivors of domestic violence.

Stephen Townley - TrialWatch Legal Director

Gulzhan Pasanova was convicted of causing bodily harm to her husband resulting in his death in 2020. A forensic medical examination after her arrest showed evidence of previous physical abuse. She says that on the night in question her husband physically attacked her, threw a knife at her, and threatened to kill her. Fearing for her life, she picked up a steel bar and struck her husband on the head. In May 2020, CFJ filed an amicus brief  based on monitoring of her trial by CFJ’s partner the ABA Center for Human Rights in support of Ms. Pasanova’s appeal, arguing that the trial court violated her rights under international human rights law and urging the appeal court to overturn her conviction. Following this intervention, her sentence was lowered to 6 years in prison, which she is currently serving. TrialWatch then took her case to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women challenging her discriminatory treatment at trial and seeking systemic reform of how Kyrgyzstan treats self-defense claims in trials of domestic violence survivors.

 

Reproductive Rights in El Salvador

In light of the findings of the Inter-American Court, El Salvador must acknowledge the confluence of factors that led to the wrongful convictions of those women currently incarcerated for their obstetric emergencies, and release them promptly.

Juliet Sorensen - TrialWatch Expert

Based on TrialWatch monitoring of two cases of women charged with aggravated homicide in El Salvador for obstetric emergencies, CFJ and The Center for International Human Rights at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law intervened in a landmark case before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights challenging El Salvador’s prosecution of obstetric emergencies.  The brief used the monitoring data to show how these prosecutions are often based on gender stereotypes, for instance the sense that women should somehow be able to prevent miscarriage or loss in childbirth, and that otherwise they are a ‘bad mother,’ or equating sex outside of marriage with criminality.  The Inter-American Court agreed, finding in the case before it that the woman’s trial had been infected by the “use of gender stereotypes and preconceptions.” The Court ordered there be $200,000 compensation for the victims, legal reforms on women’s healthcare in El Salvador, increased privacy protections, and training for people working in the justice sector to prevent such abuses in the future.

Leadership Impact

Amal Clooney

Amal Clooney  has helped to secure the freedom of journalists arbitrarily detained for their work across the globe. In 2020 she was the recipient of the Gwen Ifill Award for ‘extraordinary and sustained achievement in the cause of press freedom’ from the Committee to Protect Journalists. And in 2021 she received the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press’ ‘Freedom of the Press Award’. In 2019-2021 she also served as deputy chair of an International Bar Association Panel of Legal Experts on Media Freedom chaired by former UK Supreme Court President Lord Neuberger.

She is current lead counsel for Filipino journalist Maria Ressa facing over 100 years in prison in Manila based on spurious charges and a conviction for ‘cyber-libel’. In 2021, Maria was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her ‘courageous fight for freedom of expression in the Philippines’.

Amal was previously counsel for two Reuters journalists convicted and sentenced to 7 years in prison in Myanmar following their reporting on crimes committed against Rohingyas by the Myanmar forces. The two journalists were released in May 2019.

She represented award-winning journalist Khadija Ismayilova, subject to politically-motivated prosecution by the Azeri regime following her reporting of corruption by the President and his family. The European Court ruled in her favor and she was released in 2016. She also represented journalist Mohamed Fahmy from Al Jazeera English television network detained in Egypt following an unfair trial for the crimes of ‘terrorism’ and ‘fake news’.  Fahmy was released in 2015.

 


George Clooney

George has been deeply involved in creating accountability for genocide and other atrocity crimes in Africa and beyond for nearly two decades. He has testified at the UN Security Council as well as before the US Senate on multiple occasions about the need for accountability for atrocities committed in Darfur. In 2019 in lead a successful boycott of nine hotels owned by the Sultan of Brunei following the country’s attempts to enforce the death penalty for homosexuality.

He has a unique position and ability to galavanize people around human rights issues, and over the years, he has also raised hundreds of millions of dollars for causes such as the Haiti earthquake victims, Indonesian tsunami and 9/11 victims.

In 2016, George co-founded The Sentry, CFJ’s strategic partner, with John Prendergast and has also co-founded two other human rights initiatives, Not On Our Watch and The Satellite Sentinel Project, which joined together to become The Sentry.

 

To read more about our co-presidents visit our “Meet the Co-Presidents” page.