Clooney Foundation tackles injustice ‘one case at a time’
29 April 2019 at 4:56 pm
A Hollywood power couple is launching an app to help protect vulnerable people in the justice system and prevent human rights abuses.
The Clooney Foundation for Justice (CFJ), founded by Amal and George Clooney, unveiled its TrialWatch initiative in New York last Thursday.
The program focuses on monitoring and responding to trials around the world deemed to pose a high risk of human rights abuses.
CFJ will recruit and train trial monitors who will observe and report on criminal trials and record proceedings with a specialised app.
The foundation launched the initiative together with partners Microsoft, Columbia Law School, the American Bar Association, and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
“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,” Amal Clooney said.
“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.”
A legal expert will be used to assess the fairness of a trial against human rights standards, and this will be followed up – if necessary – with legal advocacy to help a defendant pursue justice in regional or international human rights courts.
The foundation will then use the data from the program to populate a global justice index measuring a state’s performance in this area.
TrialWatch monitors have already observed proceedings in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Latin America in recent months.
These cases have involved journalists caught up in terrorism laws, people being prosecuted under anti-LGBTQ laws in sub-Saharan Africa, and a lawyer in Eurasia facing charges in connection with his work helping human rights defenders.
OHCHR will develop an online training course for monitors, while Columbia Law School will create a system to deploy law students into the monitoring process.
The American Bar Association will also help with the recruitment and deployment of a global network of trial monitors.
Bob Carlson, president of the American Bar Association, 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.”
Microsoft meanwhile has helped the foundation develop a suitable app.
The app will capture all the information needed to assess a trial and allows a monitor to capture multiple types of data in one place – from a monitor’s notes to documents and photos.
It also includes technology to transcribe and translate content into English, so legal experts can quickly decide what action is needed.
Brad Smith, the president of Microsoft, said the app will promote fairness in trials by “making the world a witness to what happens inside courtrooms”.
“The TrialWatch app we developed with the Clooney Foundation for Justice will help human rights advocates monitor trials and share this data instantly with experts around the world,” Smith said.
“This is a critical step in upholding justice where it often matters the most – when a defendant’s freedom hinges on having a fair trial.”