Around the world, women and girls face injustice and violence simply because they are women. The justice system is supposed to protect women, but all too often courts perpetuate discrimination, or remain beyond the reach of those in need.
Our TrialWatch initiative systematically monitors trials against women and girls and works to free them from jail. Our Waging Justice for Women initiative aims to fight injustice against women through strategic litigation to reform discriminatory laws and increase accountability for gender-based abuse.
Child marriage, which remains legal in over 100 countries, robs girls of their childhood and futures. Unjust and outdated “morality laws”, such as in Iran, criminalize things as basic as showing your hair. Anti-abortion laws prevent women from accessing basic reproductive healthcare.
CFJ’s work is responsive to emerging conflicts across the globe, where time and time again we see women bearing the brunt of violence, and girls forced to lead the charge for their rights.
Did you know
Amal Clooney has successfully defended victims of sexual violence in Malawi and Kenya, including vulnerable women working on tea plantations, in mass claims against their employers.
Women and girls who report rape, harassment, or domestic violence; who have abortions or miscarriages; and who fail to adhere to strict and out-dated gender stereotypes are all unjustly targeted with criminal prosecutions.
Activists who speak up to defend women’s rights are also subject to sham prosecutions. TrialWatch systematically monitors trials against women and girls and their advocates, using findings from the courtroom to secure their release from prison and change archaic laws that facilitate this discrimination.
We have intervened in cases from Cameroon to Kyrgyzstan to El Salvador to stop gender-based prosecutions in their tracks and ensure that women’s and girls’ rights are protected.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
Did you know
CFJ Co-Founder Amal Clooney has represented Yazidi women in the only cases anywhere in the world in which ISIS fighters have been convicted of genocide. She also recently represented 126 victims of genocide in Darfur at the International Criminal Court, including many female victims of sexual and other types of gender-based violence.
The Docket recognises that mass atrocities can impact women and girls disproportionately. This is why the Docket ensures female survivors are represented in cases brought to international courts and violations against them are part of the record. This ensures women and girls are at the forefront of accountability efforts and justice for survivors.