Clooney Foundation for Justice Launches Human Rights Initiative at Columbia Law School

The Law School will partner with TrialWatch to help safeguard rights of journalists, dissidents, religious minorities, women, and LGBTQ individuals.

The Clooney Foundation for Justice, co-led by international human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, is set to launch its TrialWatch program today at an event at Columbia Law School with university President Lee C. Bollinger ’71 and Law School Dean Gillian Lester, the Lucy G. Moses Professor of Law.

TrialWatch will train and send monitors to observe legal proceedings in nations where human rights may be at risk. 

“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, the foundation’s co-president with husband and actor George Clooney, says in a press release. TrialWatch “is a global initiative to monitor trials, expose abuses, and advocate for victims, so that injustice can be addressed, one case at a time.” Amal Clooney joined the Columbia Law faculty as a visiting professor in 2015.

Today’s day-long inaugural TrialWatch conference will mark the formal launch of the program. Columbia Law announced in December that it would partner with the Clooney Foundation for Justice (CFJ) and the American Bar Association to develop TrialWatch. Columbia Law will establish a clinical program in international fair trial rights and a system for deploying law students to monitor and assist with the assessment of trials.

“The rule of law is the bedrock of just societies; it compels governments to safeguard human rights and to act in an accountable and transparent manner,” Lester says. “Our partnership with the Clooney Foundation for Justice will train law students as trial observers and deepen our international clinical offerings. Together, the TrialWatch initiative and Columbia Law School are actively advancing the rule of law and the fair administration of justice around the world.”

For each trial monitored, CFJ will work with a legal expert to produce a Fairness Report appraising the fairness of the trial against human rights standards. That in turn may initiate legal advocacy to assist a defendant in pursuing remedies in human rights courts. CFJ plans to create a global justice index, based on its assessments, that measures nations’ performance in this area.

TrialWatch monitors have already observed the legal proceedings of individuals being prosecuted under anti-LGBTQ laws in sub-Saharan Africa and those involving a journalist detained under India’s National Security Act for criticizing the government on social media.

CFJ is also partnering with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, which helped developed an online training program for trial monitors, and with Microsoft, which created a state-of-the-art app for TrialWatch monitors to use and share data instantly with experts around the world.


Watch the livestream at 4:30 p.m. EDT / 1:30 p.m. PDT



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Published on April 25, 2019