April 25, 2019

ABA joins Clooney Foundation for Justice and Columbia Law School to implement TrialWatch® initiative

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 25, 2019 — The American Bar Association today announced the launch of TrialWatch® along with its partners, the Clooney Foundation for Justice (CFJ), Microsoft Corporation, Columbia Law School, and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

TrialWatch is an initiative to monitor and respond to trials around the world that pose a high risk of human rights violations. It aims to be the first comprehensive global program scrutinizing criminal trials of journalists, human rights defenders, and members of marginalized communities, including LGBTQ persons, women and girls, and religious minorities. The official rollout event Thursday at Columbia Law School featured CFJ Co-Presidents George and Amal Clooney, ABA President Bob Carlson, Brad Smith, president of Microsoft, Lee C. Bollinger, president of Columbia University, and Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights for a panel discussion introducing TrialWatch. 

The ABA Center for Human Rights (CHR) received a grant from CFJ to help implement the TrialWatch program because it has an established track record of successful trial monitoring and fair trial expertise.

“The American Bar Association Center for Human Rights has observed trials and provided pro bono assistance to vulnerable human rights defenders in 65 countries,’ Carlson said. “As threats against civil society and justice sector personnel are on the rise, the Clooney Foundation for Justice’s impressive commitment to increasing transparency and accountability in courtrooms around the world could not be more timely.”

As part of its Justice Defenders Program, CHR has monitored dozens of trials against human rights defenders, in countries in every region of the world, including Angola, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Cameroon, Colombia, Guatemala, Iraq, Kenya, Malaysia, Morocco, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Swaziland, Turkey, and Venezuela. 

TrialWatch will significantly expand the scope and level of monitoring CHR undertakes and bring new cutting-edge technology methods to trial monitoring. We will be able to track cases around the globe that present a significant risk of injustice, including cases against journalists, human rights defenders, political opponents, and marginalized communities. Accessible online training and an app will democratize who monitors proceedings by standardizing trial monitoring data to allow meaningful comparison and advocacy as well as placing the tools for observation in the hands of affected communities.

“Courts around the world are increasingly being used to silence dissidents and target the vulnerable. But so far there has been no systematic response to this” said Amal Clooney.  “The Clooney Foundation for Justice’s TrialWatch program is a global initiative to monitor trials, expose abuses, and advocate for victims, so that injustice can be addressed, one case at a time.” 

The ABA welcomes applications and references from all individuals over 18 with high character and an interest in monitoring. You can be a lawyer, a journalist, a human rights defender, a student, a translator, or any other profession as long as you are committed to the rigorous process of trial monitoring.

Anyone interested in becoming a trial monitor with TrialWatch should contact TrialWatch@americanbar.org.

About the American Bar Association and Center for Human Rights

With more than 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is one of the largest voluntary professional membership organizations in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law. The ABA Center for Human Rights has monitored trials and provided pro bono assistance to at-risk human rights defenders in over 60 countries. View our privacy statement on line. Follow the latest ABA news at www.americanbar.org/news and on Twitter @ABANews.

About the Clooney Foundation for Justice

The Clooney Foundation for Justice was established in late 2016 by George and Amal Clooney to advance justice in courtrooms, communities, and classrooms around the world. For more information on the Foundation and its work, please visit www.cfj.org.

About Microsoft Corporation

Microsoft developed a state-of-the-art application for TrialWatch monitors that captures and distills the information needed to make an assessment of the fairness of a trial and allows a monitor to capture multiple types of data in one place (e.g., a monitor’s notes; answers to a uniform set of questions; documents; photo, audio, and video, etc.). The App also enables local language inputs, and uses Microsoft cloud, AI Cognitive Services technologies to transcribe and translate content into English, enabling legal experts to more quickly make their recommendations for action.

About the Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute

The Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute advances international human rights through education, advocacy, fact-finding, research, scholarship, and critical reflection. It works in partnership with advocates, communities, and organizations pushing for social change to develop and strengthen the human rights legal framework and mechanisms, promote justice and accountability for human rights violations, and build and amplify collective power.

About the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is the leading UN entity on human rights, entrusted by the General Assembly to promote and protect all human rights for all people. OHCHR provides also assistance in the form of technical expertise and capacity-development in order to support the implementation of international human rights standards on the ground. It assists governments, which bear the primary responsibility for the protection of human rights, to fulfil their obligations and supports individuals to claim their rights.