American Bar Association joins with Clooney Foundation and law school to implement TrialWatch initiative

The American Bar Association announced it will join the Clooney Foundation for Justice (CFJ) and Columbia Law School to collaborate on CFJ’s TrialWatch® initiative.

Set to launch in 2019, TrialWatch® will monitor trials around the world that pose a high risk of human rights violations, including trials that could oppress vulnerable groups, silence speech or target political opponents. The initiative will train a global cadre of trial monitors, including non-lawyers, to report on legal proceedings using specialized technology. A team of legal experts will then analyze the information collected by monitors and grade trials according to their compliance with international fair trial standards. TrialWatch® will also conduct advocacy where appropriate, including to marshal support for and awareness of defendants whose rights have been violated. In addition, the initiative will ultimately contribute to the development of a “Justice Index” that ranks states’ performance.

“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 and enable us to fight injustice when we see it,” said Amal Clooney, co-founder and president of the Clooney Foundation for Justice. “We are proud to partner with Columbia Law School and the American Bar Association as we work to advance justice around the world,” said Clooney, who joined the Columbia Law School faculty in 2015 as a visiting professor and a senior fellow with the Human Rights Institute.

American Bar Association President Bob Carlson stressed the importance of the program to global justice and praised CFJ for getting involved. “A fair legal process is essential for court systems to deliver justice,” Carlson said. “The American Bar Association is proud to unite with the Clooney Foundation for Justice and TrialWatch® to help institutionalize trial monitoring and bring more watchful eyes to the world’s courtrooms.”

Through its partnership with Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute and Human Rights Clinic, TrialWatch® will strengthen the global community of trial monitors and advocates; engage in research on how to best leverage trial monitoring data; and pursue the creation of an innovative, data-driven “Justice Index” that ranks states’ performance. With support from Microsoft, Columbia Law is also hosting a TrialWatch Legal Fellow who will work with students and other academics to advance these goals.

“A fair and open trial is a fundamental human right that must be protected throughout the world,” said Gillian Lester, Columbia Law School dean and the Lucy G. Moses Professor of Law. “We are honored to partner with the Clooney Foundation on a bold initiative designed to foster fairness and transparency around the world — and ultimately to reform the administration of justice.”

For more information on the Clooney Foundation and its work, visit

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