TrialWatch® Sunlight is the best disinfectant

Clooney Foundation for Justice Statement on the Release of Reports on the Trials of Evelyn Hernández and "Diana" in El Salvador
Clooney Foundation for Justice Statement on the Conviction of Alnur Ilyashev in Kazakhstan
Clooney Foundation for Justice Statement on the Verdict in the Trial of Kong Raiya in Cambodia
Clooney Foundation for Justice Statement on the Two-Year Anniversary of the Detention of Server Mustafayev
Clooney Foundation for Justice Files Amicus Brief in the Appeal of Gulzhan Pasanova in Kyrgyzstan
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What is TrialWatch?

Courts are increasingly being used as a tool of oppression. In many countries, prosecutors and judges are used to imprison government critics and minorities.

In other places, a judge’s rulings can be purchased by the highest bidder. Judges can also be complicit in grave human rights abuses when they convict for ‘crimes’ such as homosexuality or blasphemy, or when they ignore the due process rights of defendants. Yet judges and prosecutors are rarely held to account. In some countries, courtrooms are closed. And even where trials are open to the public, proceedings can be long, convoluted and hard to understand.

In response to these pressing needs, the Clooney Foundation for Justice has developed an initiative focused on monitoring and responding to trials around the world that pose a high risk of human rights violations. As an esteemed U.S. Supreme Court Justice once noted, “sunlight is the best disinfectant.”  We will therefore monitor trials in which the law may be used to target a minority or silence a government critic, meaning that there is a likelihood of a politicized, unfair trial. We will work to expose injustice and rally support to secure justice for defendants whose rights have been violated.

We are partnering with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the American Bar Association, Columbia Law School, and Microsoft Corporation, to achieve TrialWatch’s objectives.

Through the TrialWatch project, the Clooney Foundation for Justice will:

1. Recruit and train new trial monitors

TrialWatch has partnered with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to develop an interactive trial monitoring training based on international human rights standards. The training program and materials, are available here (and soon will be available in multiple languages). We have also partnered with the American Bar Association to recruit and train trial monitors, including non-lawyers, who can observe and report on criminal trials around the world.

2. Shed light on what is happening in courts all over the world

Trial monitors will be deployed to observe and report on criminal trials around the world. These monitors will be equipped with a specialized app we have developed with Microsoft that will facilitate their reporting in a consistent way.

3. Advocate for Justice

TrialWatch will work with legal experts to assess the fairness of trials according to international human rights standards. We will share the reports with international lawyers, journalists, diplomats and members of civil society who can advocate on behalf of the defendants and where appropriate we will conduct or fund legal advocacy to assist a defendant in pursuing remedies in regional or international human rights courts.

4. Develop the Global Justice Ranking™

TrialWatch will gather data that will contribute to the Global Justice Ranking™, an index documenting national courts’ adherence to human rights and fair trial standards. This will evaluate countries according to the fairness of their justice system based on the data that is gathered through TrialWatch monitoring.

Visit our TrialWatch Q&A to learn more about TrialWatch.

Where and What We Monitor

TrialWatch is global in scope and focused on trials targeting journalists, LGBTQ persons, women and girls, minorities, and human rights defenders.

Click a region on the map below for cases we are monitoring around the world.

    Trials we are monitoring or have monitored

    Journalists

    • The trial in Morocco of Hajjar Raissouni, an opposition journalist who has alleged that her conviction and sentence for the ‘crimes’ of abortion and sex outside of marriage were a politically-motivated effort to silence her (and who was subsequently pardoned).  See CFJ statement here.
    • The trial in Belarus of Marina Zolotova, the chief editor of the country’s most popular online news outlet, who was prosecuted for criminal negligence due to her alleged failure to prevent employees from sharing passwords to paywalled content. See full Fairness Report here.
    • The trial in Turkey of Cansu Piskin, a legal reporter prosecuted under terrorism-related charges after she published the name of a prosecutor in an article about a case. See full Fairness Report here.
    • The trial in Cambodia of two former RFA journalists on espionage charges that carry a potential sentence of up to 15 years in prison. See full Fairness Report here and CFJ statement on the report’s release here; see also CFJ statement on the two-year anniversary of their arrest here.
    • The trial in Nigeria of Omoyele Sowore, a journalist, former presidential candidate, and opposition critic who has been charged with treason, cyberstalking, and money laundering.  See CFJ statement on his earlier detention here.
    • The trial of a journalist critical of the government, who has been charged with criminal defamation and spreading false news.
    • Proceedings in Nigeria against Samuel Ogundipe, who is being prosecuted for theft-related offenses – carrying a sentence up to seven years – in connection with reporting on confidential government documents.
    • Habeas corpus proceedings in India regarding Kishorechandra Wangkhem, who was detained in connection with Facebook posts denouncing the ruling party. See preliminary report by the American Bar Association’s Center for Human Rights here.
    • The in absentia trial in Cambodia of two journalists, Aun Pheap and Peter Zsombor, on charges of incitement to commit a felony based on their reporting on voting patterns in a commune that the ruling party did not win in the last election.
    • The trial in Indonesia of journalist Muhammad Asrul, who has been charged with disseminating information that
      incites hatred and purposefully causing public distress by disseminating false information, based on articles about alleged corruption by a local political figure.
    • The trial in the Dominican Republic of journalist Marino Zapete, who has been charged with criminal defamation for reporting on alleged corruption.
    • The trial in Uganda of journalist and documentary filmmaker Moses Bwayo on charges of unlawful assembly related to filming a documentary on an opposition figure.
    • The trial of Paul Chouta in Cameroon on charges of defamation, “publication of insulting language” and “false reporting as a cyber offense.”  See ABA preliminary report here.

    LGBTQ Persons

    • The trial in Uganda of 67 individuals arrested at an LGBTQ-friendly bar and charged with public nuisance.
    • The trial in Nigeria of 57 men arrested in a raid on a hotel and charged with same-sex public displays of affection.
    • Proceedings in Malawi against Gift Trapence and Reverend MacDonald Sembereka, who have been charged with, among other things, forgery of official documents for an LGBTI and sex workers workshop.
    • The trial in Uganda of Mohammed Mutumba and Swabullah Nabukeera on charges of “carnal knowledge with a person against the order of nature.”

    Women and Girls

    Human Rights Defenders

    • The trial of Ahmed Manseri in Algeria, who was charged with criminal defamation in connection with his advocacy regarding human rights abuses perpetrated by the security forces. See full Fairness Report here.
    • The trial of six activists in Zambia charged with disobeying lawful orders in connection with a planned, peaceful protest against government corruption. See full Fairness Report here.
    • The trial of Veysel Ok in Turkey, who was convicted of insulting the judiciary on account of a press interview he gave questioning the judiciary’s lack of independence.  See full Fairness Report here; see CFJ statement on his conviction here.
    • The mass trial in Equatorial Guinea of over a hundred individuals in relation to their alleged involvement in a coup plot, in which 112 defendants were convicted, with 20 defendants receiving sentences of over 70 years in prison. See full Fairness Report here; see CFJ statement here.
    • The trial of Mikhail Benyash in Russia, a lawyer who has defended human rights activists and was convicted of assaulting the police, despite the fact that Benyash alleged that he was the one who was beaten and violently pushed.  See CFJ statement here.
    • The trial in Myanmar of seven members of the satirical theater group Peacock Generation Troupe, six of whom were convicted of statements intended to cause or likely to cause mutiny or disregard of duties in the Army on the basis of their performance of a traditional Thangyat.  See CFJ statement here.
    • The trial in Guatemala of Abelino Chub Caal, an indigenous leader who was charged with aggravated usurpation, arson, and illicit association.  See full Fairness Report here.
    • The trial in Thailand of Wut Boonlert, an indigenous activist charged with criminal defamation for sharing an article about a Parks official.
    • The trial in Russia of Server Mustafayev, a Tatar human rights defender who has been charged with terrorism-related offenses. See CFJ statement here.
    • The trial in Zambia of Chishimba Kambwili, who has been charged with criminal defamation for comments allegedly about the President of Zambia.
    • The trial in Asia of lawyers in connection with human rights advocacy.
    • The trial in Thailand of five individuals accused of sedition, lese-majeste, and related offenses for their alleged membership with an opposition group that supports a republican form of government: specifically, the defendants were accused of distributing flyers and wearing and selling t-shirts related to this political group.
    • Two trials in Thailand involving claims of criminal defamation by the Thammakaset poultry company based on tweets and retweets regarding alleged labor abuses by Thammakaset.
    • The trial in Hong Kong of Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, Lee Cheuk-yan, and Yeung Sum for unlawful assembly for participation in a prayer walk in August 2019 (with Jimmy Lai Chee-ying also charged with criminal intimidation in connection with separate allegations).
    • The trial of Kong Raiya in Cambodia, who has been charged with incitement for advertising t-shirts commemorating the death of an activist. See CFJ statement here.
    • The trial of Alnur Ilyashev in Kazakhstan on charges of ‘spreading false information during an emergency’ for social media posts criticized the authorities for corruption and incompetence, including in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. See CFJ statement here.

    Minorities

    • The trial in Indonesia of Suzethe Margaret, who was charged with blasphemy for behaving disrespectfully in a mosque during a period when she may have been suffering from mental illness.

    Statement by George and Amal Clooney

    The world is becoming increasingly authoritarian, and authoritarian leaders are increasingly using courts to consolidate their power. Although the judiciary is often the best protection against abuses of power, compliant or corrupt judges can also be a tool to stifle dissent and oppress minorities...

    Learn More