Posts Tagged ‘trial observation’

Progress with the TrialWatch app of the Clooney Foundation

September 10, 2019

Illegitimate judicial proceedings are increasingly being used as a ‘rule-of-law-shield’ to fend off legitimate criticism,” says David Pressman, the Executive Director of the Clooney Foundation for Justice (CFJ). No overall system exists to monitor the fairness of trials around the world: some cases receive media attention and are well documented, whereas others are only followed by local activists. To bridge this gap, the CFJ, founded in June 2016, set up TrialWatch, an international monitoring program. Launched in April 2019, TrialWatch trains individuals in the basics of trial-monitoring, and equips them with the TrialWatch app, developed with Microsoft, to help them collect information about trials of interest in their areas. That information is then passed on to legal experts, such as international human rights lawyers, who assess it and write fairness reports. In time, this will contribute to a global justice index, ranking countries by the fairness of their legal system.

By early May 2019, TrialWatch was already monitoring 18 trials around the world, from Nigeria to Belarus, a number which the organisation wants to increase. “TrialWatch aims to solve the challenge of scaling trial-monitoring,” says Pressman. Trial-monitoring has been used by legal experts and lawyers for many years, because it increases transparency, creates a simplified record of the trial, and can facilitate reform. To make it easier to become a monitor, the CFJ developed a new set of guidelines accessible to non-experts, which were approved by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the American Bar Association and Columbia Law School.

The TrialWatch smartphone app gives trial-monitors the tools to collect essential information, and store it securely in one place. The training that trial-monitors receive helps ensure that they record the right information, and straightforward yes/no questionnaires help them speed up collection. Within the app, trial-monitors can also take photos, shoot videos, and record audio – which is useful, given that many of the monitored trials happen in languages which aren’t widely spoken. Audio files are transcribed in the original language and then translated into English by Microsoft’s Azure Cognitive Services. All that is securely uploaded to the cloud, to be pored over by the CFJ’s legal experts.

Our hope is that TrialWatch can help expose states when they fall short,” Pressman says . “It can demonstrate the ways that states are instrumentalising the courts in an effort to legitimise human rights abuses.

https://www.wired.co.uk/article/amal-clooney-trialwatch-app

TrialWatch officially launched by Clooneys

April 25, 2019

As announced earlier this year [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/15/star-power-for-good-george-and-amal-clooney-at-least-try-to-tackle-controversial-issues/] on 25 April 2019 the Clooney Foundation for Justice (CFJ), together with partners Microsoft Corporation, Columbia Law School, the American Bar Association, and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), launched their TrialWatch® initiative at an inaugural TrialWatch Conference and launch event.

Clooney Foundation For Justice Logo

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, Co-President, Clooney Foundation for Justice. “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.”

TrialWatch is an initiative focused on monitoring and responding to trials around the world that pose a high risk of human rights violations. TrialWatch aims to be the first comprehensive global program scrutinizing criminal trials around the world. CFJ will recruit and train trial monitors, including non-lawyers, who can observe and report on criminal trials around the world, and use a specialised app to record the proceedings. The Clooney Foundation for Justice will then work to expose injustice and rally support to secure justice for defendants whose rights have been violated. For each trial monitored, CFJ will work with an eminent legal expert to produce a Fairness Report assessing and grading the fairness of the trial against human rights standards, and, where necessary and possible, will be followed up with legal advocacy to assist a defendant in pursuing remedies in regional or international human rights courts. Ultimately, the data that is gathered will populate a global justice index that measures states’ performance in this area.

TrialWatch will focus on trials involving journalists, LGBTQ persons, women and girls, religious minorities, and human rights defenders. In recent months, TrialWatch monitors have observed proceedings in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and Latin America. The cases have involved journalists being prosecuted under a wide variety of laws, including cyber laws, administrative laws, and terrorism laws, in six countries. TrialWatch has covered a trial of individuals being prosecuted under anti-LGBTQ laws in sub-Saharan Africa and proceedings involving a journalist detained under India’s National Security Act for criticizing the government on social media. TrialWatch monitors are also monitoring the trial of a lawyer in Eurasia, who is being prosecuted in connection with his work on behalf of human rights defenders and the trial of a journalist in Nigeria, who is being prosecuted for writing about internal government documents and refusing to reveal his source. Fairness reports are being produced to assess each of these trials, and many more trials will be monitored on an ongoing basis around the world.

CFJ has partnered with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to develop an online training course for monitors. This course was developed by CFJ and approved by OHCHR.

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https://finance.yahoo.com/news/clooney-foundation-justice-convenes-human-rights-leaders-mark-103100664.html?

Star power for good: George and Amal Clooney at least try to tackle controversial issues

March 15, 2019

On 16 March 2019 Belinda Goldsmith reports for the Thomson Reuters Foundation from Edinburgh how celebrity couple George and Amal Clooney say they want to use their star power to push for justice globally for women, children, LGBT+ people, religious minorities and journalists. Too many celebrities simply ignore these (controversial) issues and focus instead on less complicated charity work or – worse – serve the human rights violators by lending their name [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/31/amnesty-international-calls-on-golfers-not-to-play-the-saudi-propaganda-game/]

The couple’s Clooney Foundation for Justice, set up in 2016, plans to this year launch, TrialWatch, a project to monitor trials and create an index to track which countries are using courtrooms to oppress minorities and government critics. Amal Clooney, an international human rights lawyer, said it was important to expose injustices and the countries using courts to target vulnerable people, human rights defenders and press freedom. “We now have the highest number of journalists in jail in the world since records began,” she told a charity gala organized by the People’s Postcode Lottery in Edinburgh. [See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/10/16/amal-clooney-speaks-about-the-maldives-at-ai-side-event/]

The Clooneys said they were both committed to using their fame to raise awareness about human rights abuses and corruption. Amal Clooney said her job was less glamorous than it might seem as it mainly involved piling through vast amounts of paperwork but their fame could be used to their advantage. [See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/02/26/george-clooney-speaks-out-on-sexual-violence-in-darfur/]

Her actor husband also played down the glamor of fame, joking about being the father of one-year-old twins, but acknowledged that he had always been determined to use the public spotlight to do good. “I didn’t grow up wealthy,” he said. “If you end up getting lucky, you should share that luck.

Two Giorgis speak about Azerbaijan’s continued refusal to play fair

April 3, 2015

From many sources including this blog [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/azerbaijan/], we know that Azerbaijan is a leader in the category ‘crime does pay’. For a more general article on this topic see: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140603192912-22083774–crime-should-not-pay-in-the-area-of-international-human-rights.

During the last 2 days of March 2015 it decided to detain a Georgian trial observer in the airport. As ‘non co-operation’ (to use a euphemism) tends to get underreported – which is exactly why it is so attractive –  here in full the interview which Giorgi Lomsadze of EurasiaNet.org had with the Giorgi Godia, the Human Rights Watch’s South-Caucasus representative who is the one who came to observe the trials of imprisoned human-rights lawyer Intigam Aliyev and rights-activist Rasul Jafarov. [The Azerbaijani government, as yet, has not provided a reason for Gogia’s detention and subsequent deportation back home.] Azerbaijan may be willing to host sports events, but fair play is not part of it.

Turkey: after 16 years finally Justice for human rights defender Pınar Selek

December 20, 2014

Yesterday, 19 December 2014, the Istanbul High Criminal Court acquitted Ms. Pınar Selek, an academic known for her commitment towards the rights of the most vulnerable communities in Turkey. She was prosecuted for allegedly causing a bomb to explode in Istanbul’s Egyptian bazaar on July 9, 1998, and for membership in a terrorist organisation.

Previously, the Istanbul Special Heavy Penal Court No. 12 had acquitted her on three occasions: in 2006, 2008, and 2011. Notwithstanding, the Supreme Court quashed the first two acquittal decisions and requested the lower court to convict her. In, 2013, the Istanbul Special Heavy Criminal Court No. 12 deferred to the Supreme Court’s request and sentenced Ms. Pınar Selek to life imprisonment, while the case was still pending before the Supreme Court. On June 11, 2014, the Criminal Chamber No. 9 of the Supreme Court decided to overturn the conviction on procedural grounds[https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/07/09/pinar-selek-case-in-turkey-the-supreme-court-overturns-life-sentence-against-pinar-selek/]

Countless procedural irregularities have been observed during the trial. She should have never been prosecuted in the first place. This decision should now become final, recalled Martin Pradel, Lawyer at the Paris Bar, who has been observing the legal process for the Observatory since 2011.

The Observatory (a coöperation between FIDH and OMCT) has been particularly mobilised on this case, through the publication of nine urgent alerts, six trial observations and demarches towards the Turkish authorities and the international community at the highest level. For more information see Observatory mission report published in April 2014, available in English on the following web links: http://www.omct.org/files/2014/04/22642/turkey_mission_report_pinar_selek_2014.pdf

Turkey: Justice at last! Pınar Selek acquitted after 16 years of judicial harassment / December 19, 2014 / Statements / Human rights defenders / OMCT.

Russia: “foreign agent” law considered constitutional and upheld against Memorial

April 10, 2014

 

In a hearing observed on 8 April by the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (FIDH-OMCT joint programme), the Saint Petersburg City Court upheld that the Anti-Discrimination Centre (ADC) “Memorial”, a prominent Russian NGO was performing the functions of a “foreign agent” and had to register as such for its human rights work.

At the end of yesterday’s hearing, which lasted less than an hour, the Observatory mission delegate reported that the judge interrupted ADC “Memorial’s lawyers on several occasions throughout the session, thereby hindering their capacity to develop their arguments and breaching their right to a fair trial and due process, while no one objection or remark was voiced when the prosecutor was speaking. Once again, the City Court pointed a report submitted by ADC “Memorial” to the United Nations Committee Against Torture in 2012 as the only evidence of its so-called “political activities Read the rest of this entry »

Russian court declares ADC Memorial formally as “foreign agent” – others to follow

December 16, 2013

 

On December 12, 2013, the Anti-Discrimination Centre (ADC) “Memorial was officially declared a “foreign agent” by the Leninsky District Court of St Petersburg, and was ordered to register as such with the Ministry of Justice, according to  information received by the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders. Today, the court unexpectedly established that all the activities of ADC “Memorial” fall under the definition of “performing the functions of a foreign agent”. Accordingly, for the first time, a court has directly labelled a human rights NGO a “foreign agent”, and did not just order it to register as such. This decision could pave the way to increased harassment of all human rights organisations in the Russian Federation. Read the rest of this entry »

Trial Observation lawyer denied entry into Bahrain for trial of Naji Fateel starting tomorrow

November 17, 2013

While the appeal of human right defender Naji Fateel in Bahrain is due to start tomorrow, 18 November, a group of five human rights NGOs regrets the lack of cooperation by Bahraini authorities to allow access to the country for a trial observation mission. The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Front Line Defenders, the Gulf Center for Human Rights, and the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights – and the World Organisation Against Torture), had mandated – with support from IFEX  – a lawyer to observe the trial, but their request remains unanswered.

[Naji Fateel, co-founder of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights and a blogger, was sentenced on September 29, 2013 to 15 years in prison for “the establishment of a group for the purpose of disabling the constitution” under Article 6 of the Terrorism Act.]

via Bahrain: Lawyer mandated by international human rights NGOs denied entry to Bahrain to observe the trial of human rights defender Naji Fateel / November 15, 2013 / Urgent Interventions / Human rights defenders / OMCT.

Trial Observation report re Turkish human right defender Osman İşçi, by EMHRN

July 5, 2013

Observation of the trial of Osman İşçi, human rights defender and trade-unionist

On 25 June the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) published the trial observation report concerning its Executive Committee member, human rights defender and trade unionist M. Osman İşçi. He was arrested in Ankara, Turkey, one year ago on 25 June 2012, and detained at the high-level security prison of Sincan, Ankara, along with another 27 trade unionists arrested on the same date facing proceedings for allegedly supporting a terrorist organization.

The first hearing of Osman İşçi’s trial took place on 10 April in the Ankara Special Court, after ten months of pre-trial detention. Following this hearing, M. Osman İşçi and 21 other trade unionists and human rights defenders were released, however the charges against them remain and a new hearing is scheduled for the 8 July 2013. The trial observers noted that it had been conducted with courtesy by all participants, and defendants and their lawyers had been permitted to take an active part in the hearing. Nevertheless they noted with concern that a number of central features of international fair trial standards appeared to be absent from the hearing, and from the proceedings generally. To read the trial observation report please control/click here

via Observation of the trial of Osman İşçi, human rights defender and trade-unionist | Euromedrights.

labour activists in Thailand get hearing on 28 May but have lost some of their hearing

May 20, 2013

After an absence for a few days for a fascinating meeting of and on HRDs in York university, UK, on which I will report more on another occasion, I return to my regular blog with a case that involves two kinds of hearingRead the rest of this entry »