Justice for Victims of Unfair Trials TrialWatch®

TrialWatch to Monitor Trial of Brazilian Human Rights Lawyer José Vargas Sonbrinho
TrialWatch to Monitor Trial of Brazilian Human Rights Lawyer José Vargas Sonbrinho
Clooney Foundation for Justice and Gibson Dunn Seek Relief from UN for Imprisoned Crimean Activist
Clooney Foundation for Justice and Gibson Dunn Seek Relief from UN for Imprisoned Crimean Activist
TrialWatch Expert Says Aleksey Navalny's Slander Conviction Violated His Right to Freedom of Expression
TrialWatch Expert Says Aleksey Navalny's Slander Conviction Violated His Right to Freedom of Expression
TrialWatch to Monitor Proceedings Against Mexican Activist Kenia Hernández
TrialWatch to Monitor Proceedings Against Mexican Activist Kenia Hernández
TrialWatch Report Finds Russian Court Should Not Have Closed Proceedings Against Activist Yulia Tsvetkova
TrialWatch Report Finds Russian Court Should Not Have Closed Proceedings Against Activist Yulia Tsvetkova
Belarus Jailing of Journalists Reporting on Peaceful Protest Violates International Law
Belarus Jailing of Journalists Reporting on Peaceful Protest Violates International Law
Pre-Trial Proceedings Against Maâti Monjib in Morocco Raise Concerns
Pre-Trial Proceedings Against Maâti Monjib in Morocco Raise Concerns
Trial of Activist in Kazakhstan Shows How Governments Misuse COVID-19 to Suppress Speech
Trial of Activist in Kazakhstan Shows How Governments Misuse COVID-19 to Suppress Speech
Prosecutions Against Members of the Constitutional Court of Guatemala Should Stop
Prosecutions Against Members of the Constitutional Court of Guatemala Should Stop
Charges Against Blogger Dian Abdullah in Malaysia Should be Dismissed
Charges Against Blogger Dian Abdullah in Malaysia Should be Dismissed
Pro-Democracy Leaders Face New Threats in Thailand
Pro-Democracy Leaders Face New Threats in Thailand
previous arrow
next arrow
Shadow

What is TrialWatch®?

TrialWatch’s mission is to expose injustice, help to free those unjustly detained and promote the rule of law around the world. We monitor criminal trials globally against those who are most vulnerable — journalists, protesters, women, LGBTQ+ persons and minorities — and advocate for the rights of the unfairly detained.

The Challenge

The world is becoming increasingly authoritarian, and authoritarian leaders increasingly use courts to consolidate their power. The judiciary is supposed to protect against abuses of power, but corrupt or compliant judges can also be complicit in silencing dissent, undermining democracy and oppressing minorities. Yet little is known about the human rights abuses occurring in courts. We monitor the fairness of elections, but not corruption in courts. While most trials are open, many proceedings are long, complex and involve a foreign language, which means that abuses take place in the dark.

Our Response

TrialWatch shines a light on injustices by monitoring trials and advocating for the rights of victims. Our monitors complete our UN-endorsed online training program and use a customized app developed with Microsoft to record their observations. Using this data, a legal expert assesses whether the trial complied with international legal standards and grades the trial on this basis. When an individual is unfairly imprisoned, we advocate on behalf of victims before domestic and international courts, UN bodies and regional human rights commissions. Over time, TrialWatch will use the data it gathers to publish a Global Justice Ranking exposing countries’ performance and use it to support advocacy for systemic change.

Our Methodology

TrialWatch’s work involves three principal activities: monitoring, evaluation, and advocacy.  Each of these is geared to preventing or remedying abuses: the very presence of monitors can influence the behavior of prosecutors and judges, thereby preventing abuses; reporting on violations can generate pressure to correct injustices; and advocacy can help victims regain their freedom and obtain other remedies.

Monitoring.

TrialWatch generally sends a monitor to attend every court hearing in a case, no matter how remote the location. We have seen how a monitor’s presence itself can have a direct impact: in proceedings against Abelino Chub in Guatemala, local partners relayed their view that the monitor’s presence affected the outcome of the case, and the defendant was ultimately acquitted. Similarly, after our TrialWatch partner the ABA Center for Human Rights sent a monitor to an Algerian courtroom—the first time an international monitor had been present in a courtroom there in years—the monitor noted that the treatment of the defendant’s case “differed significantly from the treatment of any other case heard that day.”

Evaluation.

Based on the monitor’s notes and collected court documents, TrialWatch issues statements and reports identifying clear violations that have arisen at trial. TrialWatch experts include the best legal minds in the world, many of whom also serve on TrialWatch’s advisory board. They conduct a detailed assessment of the fairness of the trial measured against international standards and produce a Fairness Report that grades the trial. This creates an objective and public record of the fairness and legitimacy of the proceedings.

Advocacy.

TrialWatch may engage in advocacy during a trial: for example, to demand an end to a specific violation, such as arbitrary detention, or to signal to the authorities that the proceedings are being watched. After trial, based on its Fairness Report, TrialWatch also engages in post-trial advocacy by, for instance, filing an amicus brief supporting a domestic appeal or by taking a complaint to a regional or international body on behalf of a detainee. Advocacy may also include pursuing systemic change to the underlying unfair laws or processes including through a Global Justice Ranking that we are building.

Our Unique Value

There is no comprehensive global program scrutinizing the courts of the world for instances of legal injustice. TrialWatch aims to fill that gap. International election monitoring allows us to know if an election was free and fair; TrialWatch provides the same capability for trials.

TrialWatch is the first initiative of its kind. Since our launch in April 2019, TrialWatch has already monitored trials in over 30 countries and in every region of the world. We have recently filed third-party interventions before domestic courts of appeal in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. We have submitted an urgent appeal to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, with other such submissions in progress.  And we have filed an amicus brief before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

In addition to advocating for individual victims of injustice, TrialWatch will also gather data to publish a first-of-its-kind Global Justice Ranking®, an index documenting national courts’ adherence to human rights and fair trial standards.

Where and What We Monitor

TrialWatch monitors criminal trials around the world with a focus on vulnerable groups–journalists, persons who identify or are perceived as LGBTQ+, women and girls, human rights defenders, and minorities–and cases in which there is a high risk that prosecutors and judges may be complicit in human rights abuses.

A Focus on Vulnerable Groups

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 Hajar 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. See full Fairness Report 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 on 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 Radio Free Asia journalists on espionage charges that carry a potential sentence of up to 15 years in prison. See CFJ statement on the two-year anniversary of their arrest hereSee full Fairness Report here.
    • The trial in Nigeria of Omoyele Sowore, a journalist, former presidential candidate, and opposition critic who has been charged with treason and conspiracy to commit treason for calling peaceful protests under the slogan “#RevolutionNow”. See the preliminary report here. See also CFJ statement on his re-arrest here and statement on his earlier detention here.
    • 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 here.
    • The in absentia trial in Cambodia of two journalists, Aun Pheap and Peter Zsombor, on charges of incitement 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 Uganda of journalist and filmmaker Moses Bwayo on charges of unlawful assembly related to filming a documentary on an opposition figure. See full Fairness Report here.
    • The trial of Paul Chouta in Cameroon on charges of defamation, “publication of insulting language” and “false reporting as a cyber offense.” See statement by Debevoise & Plimpton LLP and CFJ announcing filing of a communication with the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and follow-up statement on Mr. Chouta’s continued detention. See the preliminary report here.
    • The trials in Bangladesh of photojournalist and editor Shafiqul Islam Kajol, who has been charged with criminal defamation, among other charges, in three separate cases under the Digital Security Act. The charges relate to a newspaper article he shared on social media that alleged a scandal involving Bangladeshi politicians. See CFJ statement calling for his release from pre-trial detention here
    • The trial in Azerbaijan of opposition leader and former journalist Tofig Yagublu, who has been convicted of hooliganism and sentenced to over four years in prison. The charges arose out of a car accident and alleged assault that Mr. Yagublu states was staged.
    • The trial in Russia of journalist Svetalana Prokopyeva, who was convicted of “public justification of terrorism” following statements she made on her radio program seeking to understand the root causes of a terrorist attack committed by a teenager.  See CFJ statement on her conviction here. See full Fairness Report here.
    • The trial of journalist Wan Noor Hayati Wan Alias in Malaysia, who has been charged with disseminating false information that “could disrupt national stability and public order” for Facebook posts questioning the government’s decision to allow tourists on a cruise ship coming from Wuhan to disembark at Penang.
    • The trial of a journalist in Africa charged with offenses including “spreading fake news” relating to their reporting on the government’s response to COVID-19.
    • The trial of journalist Dhaval Patel in India, charged with sedition and spreading “false alarm or warning” for reporting on the handling of COVID-19 by the authorities in the state of Gujarat.
    • The trial of journalist Kufre Carter in Nigeria, charged with criminal defamation and conspiracy for an article that described a conversation between two unnamed health professionals in which they criticized the local health commissioner’s response to the COVID crisis.
    • The trial of journalist Alexander Pichugin in Russia, who was convicted of spreading ‘fake news’ for sarcastic comments he published on social media criticizing Russia for permitting religious gatherings as a stark exception to the general rule of social distancing at a time when COVID-19 infection was prevalent. See CFJ statement on his conviction here.
    • The trial of blogger Emna Chargui in Tunisia, who was convicted of “inciting hatred between religions through hostile means or violence” and “infringing an authorized religion” for a poem she re-posted on Facebook entitled ‘Sura Corona,’ which discussed the importance of science guiding the response to COVID in the style of a Quranic verse. See CFJ statement on her conviction here.
    • The trial in Turkey of journalists from OdaTV for allegedly disclosing the name of an intelligence officer, in violation of Turkish intelligence law, despite the fact that the information had already been made public by others.
    • The trial in Turkey of journalists from the news portal Diken on charges of “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” for covering tweets from the anonymous  ‘Fuat Avni’ Twitter account.
    • The trial in Malaysia of online news site Malaysiakini and its editor-in-chief, Steven Gan, on charges of contempt for unmoderated comments posted by third parties on the news site.
    • The trial in Cambodia of journalist Ros Sokhet, who was convicted of incitement for Facebook posts critical of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, among others. See CFJ statement on his conviction here.
    • The trial in Malaysia of blogger Dian Abdullah on charges of sharing offensive content and making statements that could cause public mischief in connection with criticism of the Malaysian government’s failure to provide sufficient assistance to the most vulnerable during the pandemic.
    • The trial in Morocco of Omar Radi, an investigative journalist who has previously focused on the financial holdings of the King of Morocco, on charges of insulting the judiciary.  See CFJ statement on his conviction hereSee full Fairness Report here.
    • The trial in Peru of journalist Paola Ugaz, who has been charged with criminal defamation for her criticism of the coverage of lawsuits filed against her in response to her investigative work on abuses allegedly perpetrated by a Peruvian Catholic lay organization. See the preliminary report here.
    • The trial in Algeria of journalist Said Boudour, who was convicted of defamation for Facebook posts he denied making, as well as blackmail. See CFJ statement in advance of his trial here.
    • The trial in Guatemala of Anastasia Mejia, a Maya K’iche’ radio journalist who has previously reported on alleged corruption by local officials. She has been charged with sedition, aggravated attack, arson, and aggravated robbery in connection with her live reporting on a protest.
    • The trial of Indian journalists Anant Nath, Rajdeep Saradesai, Vinod Jose, Mrinal Pande, Zafar Agha, and Paresh Nath, and politician Shashi Tharoor on sedition charges for reporting and sharing media posts on the death of a farmer during the Delhi farmers’ protests.

    LGBTQ Persons

    We are researching the situation of LGBTQ persons in a number of other jurisdictions with a view to identifying trials for potential monitoring, for instance, collaborating with Cleary Gottlieb on research regarding LGBTQ persons in the Caribbean. We are also monitoring cases such as: 

    • The trial in Uganda of 67 individuals arrested at an LGBTQ-friendly bar and charged with public nuisance. See full Fairness Report here.
    • The trial in Nigeria of 57 men arrested in a raid on a hotel and charged with same-sex public displays of affection. See CFJ statement on the striking of the charges against the men. See full Fairness Report here.
    • 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.”
    • The trial in Russia of artist and activist Yulia Tsvetkova, who is facing pornography charges for posting artistic images of female genitalia in what she has said is an effort to combat the objectification of women’s bodies. The indictment in her case also raises concerns that the charges may have been brought because the images are not heteronormative; the indictment refers for instance to the role the images could play in creating “a stereotype of female sexuality as an isolated phenomenon that exists outside of sexual relations with men.”  See CFJ statement calling for respect for her right to a public trial here.

    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 human rights lawyer Nicholas Opiyo in Uganda, who has been charged with money laundering, which carries a potential penalty of up to 5 years’ imprisonment. See CFJ statement announcing the monitoring here.
    • The trial of human rights lawyer Theary Seng in Cambodia, who has been charged with conspiracy to commit treason and incitement, which together carry a potential penalty of up to 12 years’ imprisonment. See CFJ statement announcing the monitoring 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 CFJ statement on his conviction here. See full Fairness Report 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 CFJ statement here. See full Fairness Report 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 on his conviction here. See full Fairness Report 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 on the conviction of six defendants here. See full Fairness Report 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. See full Fairness Report here.
    • The trial in Russia of Server Mustafayev, a Tatar human rights defender who, along with others, was convicted of terrorism-related offenses, with the defendants given sentences of between 13 and 19 years’ imprisonment. See CFJ statement on medical care for the defendants here. See CFJ statement on Mr. Mustafayev’s conviction 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 Thailand of four individuals charged with sedition and “membership in a secret society” for their alleged affiliation with a political group that advocates for a republican-style government and which the Thai government considers anti-monarchist: specifically, the defendants were accused of distributing flyers and wearing and selling t-shirts related to this political group. See full Fairness Report here
    • 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.
    • Several trials in Hong Kong of pro-democracy protestors and opposition leaders charged with organizing and participating in unauthorized assemblies related to several demonstrations in 2019 and 2020.
    • The trial of Kong Raiya in Cambodia, who was convicted of incitement for advertising t-shirts commemorating the death of an activist. See CFJ statement on his conviction here. See full Fairness Report here.
    • The trial of Alnur Ilyashev in Kazakhstan, who was convicted of “spreading false information during an emergency” for social media posts criticizing the authorities for corruption and incompetence, including in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. See CFJ statement on his conviction here. See CFJ statement and amicus brief supporting his appeal here. See CFJ statement on the decision upholding his conviction here.
    • The trial of artist Danai Ussama in Thailand, charged with the dissemination of “false” information for Facebook posts stating that neither he nor other passengers were given appropriate health screening at Bangkok airport upon their return from Barcelona.
    • The trial in Thailand of student activist Parit Chiwarak on charges of contempt for organizing a courthouse demonstration in support of other pro-democracy activists facing prosecution.
    • The trial in Thailand of Arnon Nampa and Panupong Jadnok on charges of sedition and other public-order offenses for their participation in anti-monarchy and anti-government protests. See CFJ statement on Arnon Nampa’s arrest here. See CFJ statement on lèse majesté charges against pro-democracy protestors, including Arnon Nampa, here.
    • The trial in Nigeria of Eromosele Adene, who has been charged with conspiracy to commit a felony (provoking breach of peace), provoking breach of peace through offensive publication, and conduct likely to cause a breach of peace in connection with his participation in End SARS protests.
    • The trial in Tunisia of an activist and blogger charged with ‘offending others’ for reposting and commenting on a video of a police officer beating someone.  The charges against the blogger, Myriam Bribri, were predicated on a complaint by the Secretary-General of the Regional Section of the Security Forces Union in Sfax, which said that the post had offended the Secretary-General “in particular.”
    • The trial in Indonesia of a woman who is facing up to four years in jail under Indonesia’s controversial Electronic Information and Transactions Law (ITE Law) for a critical customer review of her experience at a dermatology clinic.
    • The trial in Russia of artist and activist Yulia Tsvetkova, who is facing pornography charges for posting artistic images of female genitalia in what she has said is an effort to combat the objectification of women’s bodies. The indictment in her case also raises concerns that the charges may have been brought because the images are not heteronormative; the indictment refers for instance to the role the images could play in creating “a stereotype of female sexuality as an isolated phenomenon that exists outside of sexual relations with men.”  See CFJ statement calling for respect for her right to a public trial here.

    Minorities

    TrialWatch is actively tracking cases in which members of minority groups are prosecuted for who they are or what they believe. We are monitoring cases such as: 

    • The trial in Indonesia of Suzethe Margaret, who was charged with blasphemy for behaving disrespectfully in a mosque during a period when she was experiencing mental health issues. 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. See full Fairness Report here.
    • The trial in Russia of Server Mustafayev, a Tatar human rights defender who, along with others, was convicted of terrorism-related offenses, with the defendants given sentences of between 13 and 19 years’ imprisonment. See CFJ statement on medical care for the defendants here. See CFJ statement on Mr. Mustafayev’s conviction 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 Guatemala of Anastasia Mejia, a Maya K’iche’ radio journalist who has previously reported on alleged corruption by local officials. She has been charged with sedition, aggravated attack, arson, and aggravated robbery in connection with her live reporting on a protest.

    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