Around the world, courts are often used as tools of oppression instead of arbiters of justice. TrialWatch monitors criminal trials in order to expose injustice, help those unjustly detained and convicted, and promote the rule of law.

Many governments are becoming increasingly repressive, and authoritarian leaders—even in democracies—are using courts to consolidate their power. The judiciary is supposed to protect against abuses of power and ensure that all persons are treated equally under the law. But too often, court proceedings are used to stifle dissent, persecute minorities, and target government critics. Even in democracies, authoritarian leaders have used the criminal court process to consolidate power and upend the rule of law.

TrialWatch, a partnership between the Clooney Foundation for Justice and the Human Rights Institute, is a global system for trial monitoring that documents and exposes abuses in courts and advocates on behalf of individuals whose rights were violated. It is the only organization dedicated solely to this purpose. TrialWatch monitors criminal trials with a focus on those against journalists, human rights defenders, women and girls, minorities, and LGBTQI individuals and also develops advocacy to address violations when they occur.

HRI works with human rights experts to evaluate trials’ compliance with international fair trial standards and support defendants whose rights were violated. We also train and support a global community of trial monitors and run a network of university partners around the world. We convene advocates and experts to develop regional advocacy and collaboration through trainings, conferences, and expert meetings held at Columbia University and around the world. We monitor trials and collaborate with partners in countries including Brazil, India, Lebanon, Poland, Thailand, and Turkey. Initiatives to date include:

  • The TrialWatch clinic team monitored a trial in Zambia against six anti-corruption advocates, and documented the proceedings in the first TrialWatch report.

  • In Thailand, where we have monitored trials against political and human rights activists, defense counsel have used our reports to support their clients on appeal and in advocacy to prevent new charges from being filed.

  • In Bangkok, we brought together grassroots activists and lawyers from around Southeast Asia to respond to prosecutions targeting freedom of expression and new restrictions for online speech.

  • We collaborated on PEN Norway's Turkey Indictment Project, providing the introduction to its analysis of criminal charges involving freedom of speech in Turkey.

  • We are helping to build/leading a network of TrialWatch university partnerships around the world, providing trainings and support to projects in, for example, Brazil, Lebanon, Poland, and Thailand.