06 December 2018

Celebrity couple turn their attention to global trial abuses

Clooney foundation launches TrailWatch, a global effort to monitor court trials and shine light on abuses.

The justice foundation created by George and Amal Clooney has announced TrialWatch, a global initiative to monitor court trials where there is a risk of abuse.

Tools of oppression

TrialWatch, which will also rank countries’ judicial systems, is working with the Columbia University Law School and the American Bar Association to train an international network of court monitors, including non-lawyers, whose reports will be used by legal experts to grade trials according to international standards. Amal Clooney said, ‘today, courts all over the world are used as tools of oppression. Governments get away too easily with imprisoning opposition figures, silencing critics and persecuting vulnerable groups through the courts. Trial monitoring will shine a light on these abuses. Ms Clooney is an international law and human rights lawyer who has been a visiting professor at Columbia University Law School since 2015. She and her husband launched the Clooney Foundation for Justice, which focuses on promoting justice in courtrooms and elsewhere, in 2016.

High-profile trials

Ms Clooney has worked on a number of high profile cases, including representing Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, and the former Prime Minister of Ukraine, Yulia Tymoshenko, as well as the country of Armenia in its fight for recognition of the Armenian genocide. She currently is a member of the legal team representing Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, convicted under Burma’s colonial-era Official Secrets Act and sentenced to seven years. Sarah Cleveland, faculty director of Columbia University Law School’s Human Rights Institute, said that while many organizations monitor high-profile trials, TrialWatch also will scrutinize lesser-known cases. Ms Cleveland said, the aim is ‘to expand global capacity so that we can reach trials that don’t involve the deposed head of state.’