DIGNITY RIGHTS INITIATIVE

Trial Education Project

The Center for Human Rights has established a strong track record of international trial monitoring through its Justice Defenders Program and its collaboration on the TrialWatch Project with the Clooney Foundation for Justice.  This experience has consistently demonstrated the power of trial monitoring to help ensure that courts around the world adhere to international due process and fair-trial standards.  Building on this experience, the Trial Education Project will focus on reinforcing similar outcomes in American courts.

While trial monitors can be pivotal to ensuring that trials are fair, a monitoring muscle has not been developed in the United States. Other than in capital cases or those that have caught the public eye, most cases happen in small courtrooms across the country with little to no fanfare and, therefore, with little independent accountability beyond what the court system itself can provide.  Public monitors can act as a check on that accountability regime, raise awareness about the important developments in a case, and ultimately contribute to more just outcomes. 

Trial monitoring itself has a long history.  Arthur Garfield of the ACLU, for example, monitored the Reichstag Fire Trial and documented how the Nazi’s framed an innocent man for their crimes. Trial monitoring can prevent innocent people from going to jail, provide valuable information for appeals and, as in worst-case scenarios such as the Reichstag Fire Trial, posthumously exonerate the wrongfully convicted.  Trial monitoring also has been an essential tool in protecting journalists and human rights defenders as they report on government abuses of power.

The Trial Education Project develops and implements an infrastructure, including standards and educational programs, to conduct trial monitoring at every level in the United States, collaborating with The Sustainable Culture Lab and law schools and journalism schools nationwide and incorporating global standards promulgated by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and consistent with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).  The Project is not exclusive to lawyers but seeks also to empower members of the general public to attend trials and assess their basic fairness.

For more information about the Trial Education Project and how to get involved, contact the Center at humanrights@americanbar.org