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Fair Trials Clinic

Amsterdam Law Clinics

The students in the Fair Trials Clinic monitor trials in various European countries. Through a partnership with the Clooney Foundation for Justice, the Fair Trials Clinic participates in TrialWatch. TrialWatch is an initiative to monitor and respond to trials around the world that pose a significant risk of violating human rights. The students work together with the NGO Lawyers for Lawyers to carry out their monitoring activities.

What is TrialWatch?

TrialWatch is an ambitious and global initiative of the Clooney Foundation for Justice. It monitors trials where there is a risk of a human rights violations, publishes reports evaluating the trials’ fairness and engages in related advocacy. Broadly, the project aims to bring transparency and accountability to the trial process and governments’ use of the court system to punish dissent, with a focus on trials in which the procedures violate fair trial standards, the charges conflict with human rights law or prosecution is used to target and punish government critics.

Working with a range of partners around the world, TrialWatch aims to professionalize and scale the practice of trial monitoring, while also involving lawyers and non-lawyers in monitoring trials in their own communities. In the spring of 2019, TrialWatch launched an online, interactive trial monitoring training, developed in collaboration with, and approved by, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and is now training monitors from around the world. TrialWatch also deploys technology, including a specialized app, to facilitate data collection and ensure it is collected in a standardized manner to help track trends and practices in prosecutions and trial outcomes around the world. This will facilitate the grading and comparison of trials, and, ultimately, a ranking of justice systems as a whole.

Illustration of a demonstration

Partnership with the Clooney Foundation for Justice and Lawyers for Lawyers 

In September 2019, the Clooney Foundation for Justice and the Amsterdam Law School formed a partnership to work together on the TrialWatch initiative. In addition, the Fair Trials Clinic works together with Lawyers for Lawyers, on trial monitoring project.. Lawyers for Lawyers has extensive experience in monitoring trials around the world against lawyers who are prosecuted or face economic, administrative or disciplinary sanctions as reprisal for or in connection with exercising their legitimate professional duties. The Lawyers for Lawyers’ office is based in the Amsterdam Law Hub at the Amsterdam Law School.

Clinical work as a clinic student for the Fair Trials Clinic

Students in the Fair Trials Clinic will work on this novel and ambitious initiative. Students work in teams of around 3 students under close supervision of University staff and will be involved in identifying trials to monitor, conducting background research on the trial and the domestic laws and procedures, monitoring trials, and drafting reports in conjunction with human rights law experts. Each semester, if the situation allows, students will travel for a few days to a selected country in Europe to monitor a trial. This will be conducted under guidance of Lawyers for Lawyers.

Students will therefore get the unique opportunity to work with worldwide experts and lawyers, enhance their knowledge of various national legal systems and substantive legal issues including fair trial rights, due process, and freedom of expression, while gaining hands-on experience and working on projects that could improve the lives and situations of defendants who face unfair trials.

Nathalie Vainio (FTC Fall '19)
Copyright: FdR
The clinic work highlighted the vulnerability of effective human rights protection (such as the right to a fair trial) and how easily these rights can be violated in the pursuit of political gain – even by democratically elected leaders in the EU. I would recommend the Fair Trials Clinic to anyone aspiring to work on a meaningful project while gaining valuable hands-on legal experience. Nathalie Vainio, Fair Trials Clinic, 2019/2020

Contact us

For any questions regarding the Amsterdam International Law Clinic, please email us at amsterdamlawclinics@uva.nl.

Requirements and eligibility

In addition to the regular course of the Amsterdam Law Clinics, students participating in the Fair Trials Clinic will have to complete an online training programme (6-10 hours) as developed by TrialWatch. 

All Master’s students are in principal eligible to apply. Other than fluency in English, there are no language skills required. However, as we may be monitoring in countries such as Turkey, Poland, Ukraine, and Hungary, knowledge of these languages will be useful. We select those students who can demonstrate in their application a strong commitment to this project, as it is both very intense but also extremely rewarding and a unique experience.

Contact with former Clinic students

If you're interested in more hands-on information about the clinic and experiences from former Fair Trials Clinic students, you can contact any of the following former students. Send an e-mail to amsterdamlawclinics@uva.nl and we will provide you with the relevant contact information.

2019-2020 2020-2021
Nathalie Vainio Sylvia Suhonen
Anna Kohte Nicola Runge
Elizabeth Cazzadore Fleurent Beurret