Clooney Foundation For Justice


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TrialWatch® Sunlight is the best disinfectant

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 is developing an initiative focused on monitoring, reporting on, and responding to trials around the world that pose a high risk of human rights violations. We expect to focus on 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.

Trial monitoring can help promote fairness in the courtroom in at least three ways:

  • it can foster transparency, providing a neutral report of what transpired;
  • it can protect defendants’ rights, as judges and prosecutors are more likely to guarantee due process if they know that their conduct is being observed and measured against international fair trial standards; and
  • it can be a diagnostic tool, facilitating analysis and reform of the administration of justice.

Although there are organizations undertaking ad hoc trial monitoring in select contexts, there is no comprehensive global program scrutinizing the courts of the world; nor is there a global standard for how trial monitoring should be conducted.

TrialWatch aims to professionalize and scale the practice of trial monitoring. This means training a new cadre of trial monitors, including non-lawyers, through an interactive online course.  It means building a community of trial monitors working in courtrooms around the world.  And it means taking a data-driven approach to the practice of trial monitoring that will allow trials and judicial systems to be measured and compared.

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

  1. Shed light on what is happening in courts all over the world
    • We will develop an interactive online training course for trial observers based on international human rights standards and support the deployment of monitors who can report on what is happening in courtrooms around the world.  By raising awareness about injustices, we can help address them.
  2. Engage in advocacy
    • TrialWatch will support the creation of fairness reports by enlisting legal experts to assess the conduct of trials according to international human rights standards. And it will share the fairness reports with international lawyers, journalists, diplomats and members of civil society who can advocate on behalf of the defendants.
  3. Support the development of a Justice Index
    • TrialWatch will gather data that will contribute to a Justice Index documenting national courts’ adherence to human rights and fair trial standards. We will use the data we gather to understand trends, such as the use of criminal defamation laws or ways in which courts are being used to target persons on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

How to get involved

The TrialWatch Project will rely on the involvement of national partners.  If you want to…

  • Identify a trial that should be observed, sign up for:


  • Become a trial monitor, or
  • Share information on your country’s criminal justice system:



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