Category Archives: Courts

Clooney: The Powerful Must be Held to Account

 In the public interest.  I have my concerns about Microsoft. If we are to talk about accountability and justice, then companies must also look at their violations of privacy, their behaviour and conduct and their activities that move us away from democracy towards compliance doctrines.

Human Rights Institute and Clooney Foundation for Justice Train Observers to Monitor Trials Where Human Rights May Be at Risk

Human Rights Clinic students working with TrialWatch have begun monitoring legal proceedings to help safeguard rights of journalists, dissidents, and LGBTQ individuals.

Beatrice Moritz / Clooney Foundation for Justice Columbia Law announced in December that it would partner with the Clooney Foundation for Justice (CFJ) and the American Bar Association (ABA) to develop TrialWatch.

Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute and the Clooney Foundation for Justice formally launched the TrialWatch program with a day-long conference at the Law School featuring human rights advocates, academics, journalists, and lawyers urging action to protect free speech and guarantee fair trials internationally. TrialWatch will train and send monitors to observe legal proceedings in nations where human rights may be at risk, develop “fairness reports,” and if necessary, assist defendants in pursuing remedies in human rights courts. Monitors will observe trials involving journalists, LGBTQ persons, women and girls, religious minorities, and human rights defenders.

Click to view Video of Amil and George Clooney discussing human rights.

“Without the fair administration of justice, it is not possible to hold the powerful to account. There can be no democracy, no freedom of speech, no safety for minorities,” said Amal Clooney, foundation co-president and a senior fellow at the Human Rights Institute.

“We measure corruption by governments, but not by courts. We monitor the fairness of elections, but not trials. Leaders accused of holding political prisoners can get away all too easily with bare denials and stock answers about the separation of powers. We need extensive monitoring, hard data, and committed advocacy if this is to change.”

Clooney and co-president George Clooney spoke at the April 25 launch event hosted by the Law School along with Dean Gillian Lester, the Lucy G. Moses Professor of Law; Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger ’71; Microsoft President Brad Smith ’84; former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein; and American Bar Association President Bob Carlson.

Their panel discussion was moderated by New York Times op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristof. Clooney Foundation for Justice Co-presidents Amal and George Clooney.

A Microsoft-funded TrialWatch Legal Fellow, Sarah Mehta, is implementing the program and working with students in the Human Rights Clinic to train them in trial observation. The program has already sent Human Rights Clinic students Nicole O’Donnell ’19, Andie Reyes ’20, and Sophie Tarazi ’19 to monitor trials in Zambia and Turkey. “Columbia has a long and influential history in shaping international human rights law and institutions,” Dean Lester said, citing the Human Rights Institute and its work to advance research and best practices around trial monitoring as it relates to international human rights law and advocacy.

TrialWatch “is a logical extension of Columbia’s commitment to human rights. It represents a novel innovation that has the potential, through technology and global cooperation, to ensure the fair administration of justice and the dismantling of corrupt systems of governance around the world,” Lester said. “These are principles for which Columbia Law School has advocated since before the passage of the [1948] Declaration of Human Rights, and we are so pleased to continue to advance those ideals through TrialWatch today.”