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Do You Want to Be a Trial Monitor?

American Bar Association

Do You Want to Be a Trial Monitor? demir

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Where judges, lawyers, and other justice system actors are complicit in or even perpetrators of human rights violations, trial monitoring is one tactic to uphold the rule of law. Trial monitors should be impartial, providing an unbiased, accurate representation of the events throughout a trial. Observers from outside the justice system provide a new set of eyes from which to evaluate if court procedures are following international fair trial standards, and can encourage better behavior. Neutral reports allow for greater transparency of court proceedings and can be used as a tool to analyze the larger justice system and work toward reforms where needed.

This project, in particular, looks to train a group of monitors, not limited to lawyers, who are able to use a data-driven approach to trial monitoring with a global standard to rank countries on their adherence to international fair trial standards. This type of consistent and standardized strategy speaks toward a goal of making justice systems overall better, as opposed to limiting impact to one trial.

The American Bar Association’s Center for Human Rights has recently expanded its trial monitoring program in partnership with the Clooney Foundation for Justice’s TrialWatch Project. The TrialWatch Project conducts trial monitoring worldwide in cases that present a significant risk of injustice. In particular, the project focuses on criminal trials in which courts may be used to oppress vulnerable groups, silence speech, or target political opponents.

The Center for Human Rights is actively seeking pro bono trial observers to monitor criminal proceedings globally on behalf of the TrialWatch Project. The trial monitor serves as the eyes and ears on the ground during the proceedings in question. Monitors should be prepared to:

  • Participate in the online trial monitoring training
  • Download and utilize the customized TrialWatch app, into which the monitor will enter data during the proceedings
  • Provide a short daily summary of the proceedings to the CHR team, ensuring that the Center is regularly updated on the case
  • Produce quality notes on the proceedings
  • In certain cases, assist with drafting trial monitoring reports
  • Be available for follow-up clarification after the observation

Once a monitor has been selected and vetted, the monitor will be added to the TrialWatch Monitoring Network. From that point forward, the Center for Human Rights will contact monitors as needed for trial observations. Additionally, TrialWatch provides monitors with the opportunity to take an online training course developed by OHCHR, after which monitors can take an exam and receive an OHCHR certification.

Foreign languages are preferred, but not required. All expenses related to monitoring will be covered by the ABA Center for Human Rights. 

If you are interested in participating in the TrialWatch program, please send a CV and a brief description of your interest in the project to [email protected] or [email protected]