All over the world, courts have been weaponized against those who speak truth to power and stand up for the rights of the most vulnerable.
To reverse this trend, Co-Founders George and Amal Clooney launched TrialWatch in 2019. TrialWatch is the first global initiative that monitors criminal trials against the most vulnerable worldwide, provides free legal support to get innocent people out of prison, and advocates for the reform of unfair laws. TrialWatch has monitored trials in over 40 countries, focusing on journalists, women and girls, democracy defenders, LGBTQ+ people and activists, and religious and ethnic minorities. Using information we gather directly from courtrooms around the world, TrialWatch is building a Global Justice Index that will be the first to evaluate and rank countries on their justice systems through real-world data.
Did you know
Our monitoring and advocacy have successfully led to wrongfully prosecuted individuals being acquitted or freed.
Become a Trial Monitor
TrialWatch has developed a UN-approved training course for people who want to be trial monitors, or just learn more about monitoring.
Did you know
Our work has led to dozens of defendants being released or having their charges withdrawn. We also work to reform the unjust laws and expose corruption in systems that underpin prosecutions targeting journalists, democracy-defenders, women and girls, and other vulnerable groups.
In many cases, a monitor’s presence in the courtroom can in itself have a direct impact. Defendants whose trials we have monitored have said that TrialWatch’s monitoring sends a message to those who seek to silence them that the world is watching—that any violation of the defendant’s rights will be exposed far and wide.
The data gathered throughout the monitoring process forms the basis of our efforts in the next two steps: evaluation and advocacy.
If a defendant is detained before trial, our experts evaluate whether the detention complies with international standards. Once a trial starts, our monitors are trained to flag potential abuses, such as a defendant being denied access to a lawyer, a court shutting the public out of a trial, or even the prosecution using torture-tainted statements. We send monitors’ notes straight to our experts, who assess whether the proceedings comply with fair trial guarantees.
Our advocacy approach is as nuanced as the challenges we face: including advocacy in international, regional and national courts, submissions to UN bodies and diplomatic or communications outreach. TrialWatch’s forthcoming Global Justice Index will be a crucial piece of TrialWatch’s unique advocacy approach.
Advocacy begins even before a trial and continues past its conclusion. We start concentrating global attention on a case when we announce our intent to monitor the trial, which lets those in the courtroom and beyond know that the world is watching. During trials, our monitors may witness serious abuses that we need to address right away, before the verdict. In a number of cases, our advocacy corrected the course of a trial or remedied a violation before it was too late.
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.— Moroccan journalist
TrialWatch is now working in more than 40 countries worldwide, monitoring criminal trials and defending the rights of individuals who are unfairly imprisoned.
Dr. Stella Nyanzi
[Thanks to TrialWatch] 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.— Women's Rights Activist
TrialWatch monitors trials of women’s rights activists all over the world and works to keep them out of jail.
When I walked into the courtroom for the first time, somebody stepped up to me and said, …..we're from Trial Watch." And that was quite uplifting to feel like somebody's in that room representing the outside world, quietly monitoring my trial.— Nigerian Human Rights Activist
Omoyele Sowore was freed and awarded damages after TrialWatch monitored his trial and published a report on his case.
TrialWatch plays an invaluable role for journalists around the world. In my case … the assistance was not only exceptional, but it came at the perfect time.— Peruvian Journalist
The work of our TrialWatch initiative has led to dozens of defendants being released or having their charges withdrawn.
Deploying monitors to trials sends a powerful message to judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys that the world is watching. I believe CFJ’s course will play a critical role in OHCHR’s monitoring work by ensuring that the deprivation of due process rights does not go unnoticed. This will move us closer to a world where everyone has a fair trial.— Human Rights Lawyer
CFJ has developed a trial monitoring training course that has been approved by the UN
Our impact can be seen every time a journalist is freed, a victim of abuse is compensated or a perpetrator is jailed because of our work.View More
TrialWatch has exposed sham trials which led to journalists, women, and activists being freed from prison or having their cases dismissed entirely. The Docket is gathering evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Congo, Syria, Venezuela, Sudan, and now Ukraine. Waging Justice for Women is creating opportunities for the future generation of women human rights lawyers in Africa through our fellowships program.
Around the world, women and girls face injustice simply because they are women.
On the ground and in the courts, we’re collaborating to advance their safety and equality.
Tanzania: Giving Married and Pregnant Girls the Right to Education
CFJ participated in a landmark case before the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights to challenge Tanzania’s policy of expelling and banning married and pregnant girls from school. This policy impacts more than 1 in 4 Tanzanian girls who are either pregnant or married before the age of 18. After the case was initiated the government announced a reversal of this discriminatory policy in a major U-turn that will benefit a quarter of the population of adolescent girls in the country.
Nigeria: Discriminatory Laws Facilitate Harassment
In Nigeria, TrialWatch monitored the first case to be tried under the country’s draconian ‘Same Sex Marriage Prevention Act,’ which criminalizes direct or indirect “public show[s] of same sex amorous relationship[s]” with up to ten years imprisonment. While the case, brought against 47 men arrested at a hotel bar, was eventually struck out, TrialWatch reporting exposed its abusive nature.
Several defendants said they were mistreated in custody, and others were forcibly ‘outed’ by being paraded in public by the authorities. And despite being given numerous opportunities by the court, the prosecution produced no relevant evidence. Even though the case was ultimately dismissed, the defendants suffered serious consequences, including loss of their jobs, estrangement from their families, stigmatization, physical violence, and legal fees.
This case starkly highlights the need to repeal the Same Sex Marriage Prevention Act and to cease harassment of LGBTQ individuals in Nigeria.
Russia: Activist Safely Out of Country
In Russia, TrialWatch published a preliminary report on the case against LGBTQ+ activist Yulia Tsvetkova, after which she was acquitted. Ms. Tsvetkova, a 26-year-old women’s and LGBTQ+ rights activist from Siberia, was charged with pornography for posting artistic images of female genitalia as part of a body-positive women’s empowerment campaign and faced up to six years in prison.
Our report details how the indictment against her was riddled with indicia of discrimination, suggesting for instance that the images she posted might create “a stereotype of female sexuality as an isolated phenomenon that exists outside of sexual relations with men.” While the prosecution appealed her acquittal, and the Court of Cassation ultimately ordered her retrial, she was able to safely get out of the country in the meantime.
It’s especially urgent that the public be permitted to see at least some of the trial given the indictment’s references to ‘erroneous ideas about the sexual sphere of a person,’ which suggest a risk of discrimination at trial.Legal Director of TrialWatch
El Salvador: The Case Against Evelyn Hernandez
Evelyn Hernandez was prosecuted for aggravated homicide based on an obstetric emergency she suffered while giving birth. TrialWatch monitored her case, and she was ultimately acquitted. CFJ did not stop there and intervened in support of Salvadorian women more broadly in a landmark case before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights challenging El Salvador’s prosecution of women who have undergone obstetric emergencies.
The Court ordered $200,000 in compensation for the victim’s family, legal reforms to women’s healthcare, for women seeking treatment at hospitals, and training on gender bias for people working in the justice sector to prevent such abuses in the future.
A direct consequence of El Salvador’s policies is the stigmatization of women, especially the most vulnerable. Prosecutions such as that of Ms. Hernandez have no place in a society that upholds the rights of its citizens.
Poland: The Case of ‘Rainbow Mary’
Polish LGBTQ+ rights activists who were prosecuted for depicting the Virgin Mary with a rainbow halo on posters had their acquittal upheld by an appeals court following TrialWatch monitoring and TrialWatch Expert Professor Lisa Davis giving the trial a grade of “D”. One of the activists, Anna Prus, told the Clooney Foundation for Justice they all felt compelled to act in response to a display a church had put up for Easter which included a crucifix surrounded by wooden boxes with different sins written on them, including “LGBT” and “gender.”
In that courtroom, it wasn’t just us on one side and the Bishop and conservative politicians on the other, it felt like a battle for Poland, what kind of country Poland is going to be.one of the three co-defendants who was acquitted
Venezuela: Justice for Survivors and Victims
Evidence submitted by CFJ and Foro Penal in Venezuela will contribute to the first-ever ICC investigation in a Latin American country.
CFJ and Venezuelan human rights organization Foro Penal submitted a dossier of evidence to the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to support investigations against crimes against humanity, torture, arbitrary detention and sexual abuse committed by state officials of the Maduro regime in Venezuela. This evidence will contribute to the first-ever ICC investigation in a Latin American country.
Given the lack of a genuine investigation at the domestic level, many victims we represent look at the ICC as their only hope for justice and we owe it to people putting themselves in danger to fight for that justice.President of Foro Penal
Uganda: Stella Nyanzi’s Conviction Overturned
Ugandan women’s rights activist Dr. Stella Nyanzi’s conviction was overturned on the basis of violations identified by a TrialWatch report submitted to a Ugandan appeals court.
Dr. Nyanzi was prosecuted for posting a poem critical of the Ugandan President on Facebook in a trial which TrialWatch monitored and graded a “D”.
[Thanks to TrialWatch] 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.Women’s Rights Activist
Russia: Persecution of Crimean Tatars
In Russia, TrialWatch secured a key decision from the UN on the persecution of Crimean Tatar religious minorities. Server Mustafayev, a 32-year-old Crimean human rights defender, was prosecuted and convicted before a military court for membership in a terrorist organization: the charges were based on his involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir, an Islamic political group that is banned in Russia but operates legally in Ukraine.
He was sentenced to 14 years in prison, with the TrialWatch Fairness Report finding that his trial was riddled with irregularities and that the authorities improperly applied Russian law to occupied Crimea.
TrialWatch and Gibson Dunn & Crutcher challenged Mustafayev’s conviction before the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which urged Russia to immediately release Mustafayev.
Mr. Mustafayev’s trial was marred by egregious violations of due process that deprived him of any semblance of a fair trial as required under international law.Associate at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP
Indonesia: Unfair Targeting of Vulnerable Woman
In Indonesia, TrialWatch reporting helped secure the acquittal of a Catholic woman unfairly targeted by the State. Suzethe Margaret, who had previously been diagnosed with schizophrenia, was charged with blasphemy after she ‘heard voices’ telling her that her husband was getting married at a mosque and, under this delusion, entered the mosque with her shoes on and with her dog—conduct prohibited by Islam.
The report on the case found that the blasphemy law was applied in a discriminatory manner: in particular, the authorities brought charges in the wake of calls from hardline groups that Ms. Margaret be punished and “[d]espite overwhelming evidence that Ms. Margaret’s diagnosed psychosocial disability was the cause of the incident.”
International pressure, including TrialWatch monitoring and reporting, contributed to her acquittal and the upholding of this decision on appeal, meaning that she did not have to serve jail time.
The court’s failure to adequately assess the supports Ms. Margaret needed and the absence of reasonable accommodations made her a spectator at her own trial.TrialWatch Expert
Guatemala: Acquittal of Indigenous Land Rights Activist
The presence of a monitor in the courtroom during the trial of 33-year-old indigenous land rights advocate Abelino Chub in Guatemala likely contributed to his acquittal after two years in detention, according to Chub’s lawyer. He was charged with aggravated usurpation and arson for allegedly burning trees and fields on a plantation run by a large banana and palm company. TrialWatch monitored the criminal proceedings against Chub in 2019 through its partners, the American Bar Association’s Center for Human Rights, and gave the proceedings an F: TrialWatch’s lowest grade.
The TrialWatch Fairness Report found that “Chub’s unjustified pretrial detention constituted a gross violation of human rights and there are indicia that his prosecution was motivated by improper considerations.”
The damage done by Mr. Chub’s prolonged, arbitrary detention cannot be understated.
Uganda: Charges Dropped Against Human Rights Lawyer
In Uganda, TrialWatch helped secure the dropping of charges against Nicholas Opiyo, a prominent human rights lawyer. Mr. Opiyo was charged with money laundering – an example of how sometimes the charges brought could be a smokescreen for the true motivation of the trial.
TrialWatch reviewed the charge sheet and issued a statement raising concerns about the lack of detail given about the evidence and charges, calling on the authorities to ensure that any prosecution was well-founded on evidence and not an effort to stifle Mr. Opiyo’s work.
Responding to this pressure, prosecutors dropped the charges.
Uganda: Charges Dismissed Against 67 People
In Uganda, TrialWatch helped secure the dismissal of charges against 67 people following a raid on an LGBTQ+-friendly bar. From 2019 to 2022, TrialWatch sent monitors to observe the proceedings, and reported on the fact that the process was clearly motivated by homophobia as well as exposing serious fair trial violations in a report.
Among other things, the defendants were denied access to key evidence and subject to undue delays because of prosecutorial misconduct, prolonging the cases so that the defendants (who were on bail) had the charges hanging over them for several years.
Following the release of TrialWatch’s report, courts in three of the cases, covering more than 30 defendants, dismissed the charges on the basis of the prosecution’s conduct.
Kyrgyzstan: Rights Activist Freed to Seek Asylum
Askhat Zheksebaev, a 47-year-old opposition activist from Kazakhstan, was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison for peaceful social media posts and private messages in support of an opposition party. His sentence was later commuted to a suspended sentence but he was banned from public activism, had his assets frozen, and was subject to severe restrictions on movement. He subsequently fled to Kyrgyzstan, where he was arrested and detained.
After, TrialWatch published a Fairness Report on Zheksebaev’s trial , giving it a D, and sent a communication to the Kyrgyz government about the potential consequences he might face on returning to Kazakhstan, a Kyrgyz court released him so that he could seek asylum.
Before Zheksebaev fled the Kazakh authorities had a stranglehold on all aspects of his life, severely restricting his travel, his access to bank accounts, and his posts on social media.TrialWatch Expert
Nigeria: Opposition Leader Released
Journalist and opposition figure Omoyele Sowore, who was detained and charged with conspiracy to commit treason after calling for a peaceful political revolution, was freed and awarded damages in Nigeria after TrialWatch monitored his trial and published a report on his case.
The report found the authorities offered shifting justifications for pursuing the case and that the charges appeared to have been brought against Mr. Sowore because the protests he sought to organize were “at odds with the Buhari government’s agenda.”
When I walked into the courtroom for the first time, somebody stepped up to me and said, '…..we're from Trial Watch.' And that was quite uplifting to feel like somebody's in that room representing the outside world, quietly monitoring my trial.Journalist
Russia: Supporting Human Rights Lawyer
Russia’s long-running campaign against 45-year-old human rights lawyer Mikhail Benyash culminated in his March 2023 retrial and conviction for allegedly assaulting the police.
Our Fairness Report was used by the defense in its successful appeal that resulted in the overturning of Benyash’s conviction. TrialWatch helped ensure that the appeal hearings remained public, despite the court’s initial efforts to close them, by submitting a letter to the court highlighting serious fair trial problems in the first instance proceedings and the need for transparency on appeal.
After Benyash was released from prison, he went on to represent anti-war protesters in Russia who were arrested following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as well as soldiers who refused to fight in Ukraine.
During the appeal I attached the TrialWatch report and often quoted from it because it’s very well done.Human Rights Lawyer
Rwanda: Paul Rusesabagina Reunited with Family
A vocal critic of Rwanda’s ruling party, Paul Rusesabagina, was convicted of terrorism-related activities for his alleged role in attacks perpetrated by the National Liberation Front (FLN) following a sham trial.
In March 2023, two and a half years after he was arrested in Rwanda, Rusesabagina’s 25-year prison sentence was commuted and he was freed. Our monitoring and reporting were key to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention’s finding that Rusesabagina was being arbitrarily detained. Our findings were also used in pivotal calls for his release by both the EU and the US authorities.
The most recent of the three TrialWatch reports produced on the trial of Rusesabagina described it as “seriously flawed” and as having “violated international and regional standards for fair trial procedures”. TrialWatch Expert Geoffrey Robertson KC said that the court “accepted and promoted the government’s case … without question or challenge.”
I think it's not an exaggeration to say that had Paul's trial not been independently monitored, had TrialWatch not stepped up and agreed to do this he may very well still be in Rwanda.Paul Rusesabagina's Lawyer
Malaysia: No Prison Sentence for Blogger
Just days after the TrialWatch report was released on the trial of Dian Abdullah, a 65-year-old blogger who was tried for ‘offensive communication’ for criticizing the government and the monarchy’s management of the COVID-19 pandemic, the prosecution offered to settle the case for a fine.
TrialWatch has since leveraged the monitoring and reporting in Abdullah’s case to file an amicus submission in an affirmative challenge to the law under which she was convicted.
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.Legal Director TrialWatch
Bangladesh: Freedom for Photojournalist
Soon after TrialWatch issued a press statement calling for the release of Shafiqul Kajol, a 52-year-old Bangladeshi photographer and editor of an independent news outlet, he was freed. Kajol is charged under Bangladesh’s draconian cybercrime law, the Digital Security Act, in three separate cases. The cases all relate to a story he shared on his Facebook page alleging a sex scandal involving several high-ranking politicians from the ruling party.
TrialWatch is monitoring ongoing proceedings against Mr. Kajol.
“I feel extremely good [that my trial is being monitored] … It gives me a sense of hope, and it gives me some courage.”Photographer and Editor
Algeria: Blogger and Human Rights Activist Acquitted
Ahmed Manseri, an Algerian blogger and human rights activist, was acquitted after TrialWatch monitored his trial. Mr. Manseri was charged with criminal defamation after he filed a criminal complaint alleging police abuse. His trial, graded a “D” by TrialWatch, was one of the first cases to be monitored by an international organization in Algeria in years.
The monitor reported “that the treatment of Mr. Manseri’s case differed significantly from the treatment of any other case heard that day” in that the judge took the time to ensure that Mr. Manseri’s rights were respected. And Mr. Manseri’s lawyer told CFJ that he doubted Mr. Manseri would have been allowed to go home but for the presence of the monitor.
The judicial harassment he experienced through the proceedings and the threat of further such action led him to temporarily flee the country, a significant harm.
Tunisia: An Interview With Myriam Bribri
At the appeal hearing of blogger and activist Myriam Bribri, her defence team used TrialWatch’s Fairness Report to demonstrate that her trial violated her right to freedom of expression.
TrialWatch also released a video ahead of her appeal in which Bribri discussed the motivations behind her prosecution. TrialWatch monitored Bribri’s case from the courtroom. In 2022 she was convicted of “offending security officials” for reposting and commenting on a video depicting police brutality and given a 4-month prison sentence and fined 500 Dinars. At the 2023 appeal hearing where our report was quoted, her conviction was requalified by the Court meaning she would no longer serve time in prison.
TrialWatch helped in taking my case beyond the local Tunisian context and making it more of a regional and international case. This exerted….adverse pressure on the authoritiesBlogger and Activist
Peru: Journalist Paola Ugaz Acquitted
Paola Ugaz is an investigative journalist in Peru who has written about corruption, drug trafficking, and terrorism and, most recently, allegations of paedophilia in a Catholic organization called Sodalicio. People linked to Sodalicio submitted multiple complaints against her, including a criminal defamation complaint filed by the director of a Catholic news website. TrialWatch was not allowed in the courtroom but monitored the case using audio recordings and court documents.
After issuing a report finding that Ms. Ugaz’s trial violated her right to freedom of expression, TrialWatch called for the case against her to be dismissed and in January 2022 she was acquitted.
When they read the judgement dismissing the case of defamation, I was happy, I was really happy because I feel that it was a triumph for the female journalists in this country, who have been so much harassed. Trialwatch played a key role in the judge's decision. TrialWatch plays an invaluable role for journalists around the world. In my case … the assistance was not only exceptional, but it came at the perfect time.Investigative Journalist
Morocco: Journalist Pardoned
TrialWatch monitored the trial of Moroccan journalist Hajar Raissouni and released a report exposing her sham trial. She was then freed & pardoned following the international attention drawn to her case. TrialWatch Expert Baroness Helena Kennedy KC – Director of the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute – graded the trial a “D” and our findings on the case were picked up by, for example, the New York Times.
Ms. Raissouni – a journalist for one of Morocco’s few independent newspapers – was charged with the ‘crimes’ of abortion and extra-marital sex after reporting criticism of the government & convicted after a sham process in which she was denied access to a lawyer.
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.Independent newspaper journalist