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, reporting on, and responding to trials around the world that pose a high risk of human rights violations: We will 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, and in particular will focus on trials involving journalists, government critics (such as opposition figures or human rights defenders), LGBTQ persons, women and girls, and religious minorities.
We are partnering with the American Bar Association (ABA) and Columbia Law School to achieve TrialWatch’s objectives. Read more here.
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.
1. Shed light on what is happening in courts all over the world
We are partnering with the ABA to recruit new trial monitors, including non-lawyers, and are developing an interactive online training course based on international human rights standards to train them. We and our partners will then support the deployment of these monitors so that they can report on what is happening in courtrooms around the world. These monitors will also be equipped with key technology to facilitate their reporting in a consistent way. 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. By bifurcating the evaluation process, we will make it possible for non-lawyers to monitor trials. And we will then share the fairness reports with international lawyers, journalists, diplomats and members of civil society who can advocate on behalf of the defendants.
3. Build a community of practice
Working with Columbia Law School through its Human Rights Institute and Human Rights Clinic, we hope to strengthen the global community of trial monitors and advocates.
4. 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.
The TrialWatch Project will rely on the involvement of national partners. If you want to become a trial monitor, or share information on your country’s criminal justice system:
The Clooney Foundation for Justice is developing the TrialWatch project to limit the use of the courts as a tool for oppression.
The Clooney Foundation for Justice has partnered with UNICEF to advance educational opportunities for Syrian refugees.
The Clooney Foundation for Justice has sponsored the resettlement of Syrian and Yazidi refugees in the United States and will continue to offer support and assistance.
The Clooney Foundation for Justice has partnered with the Southern Poverty Law Center to expand its relentless efforts to combat hate groups in the United States.