Amal and George Clooney partner with Microsoft on app to improve criminal justice oversight worldwide

Human rights attorney Amal Clooney and her husband, actor George Clooney, are partnering with Microsoft on a new app through their foundation. Photo: UK Mission to the UN/Lisa Englehart, Creative Commons Photo.

Courtrooms around the world can be dangerous places for marginalized communities, journalists, and human rights advocates. Often justice systems are weaponized to suppress dissidents and discriminate against vulnerable populations.

A group of unlikely partners plans to use technology to help human observers uncover and shine a light on these miscarriages of justice.

Microsoft is unveiling a new initiative with human rights attorney Amal Clooney and her husband, actor George Clooney, on Thursday. The Clooney Foundation for Justice and the tech company are announcing a new app called TrialWatch that helps trained volunteers to collect and report data on trial proceedings. The goal is to identify courtroom trends and track cases that involve vulnerable populations, like minorities, LGBTQ individuals, human rights activists, and journalists.

“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 in a statement. “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.”

The app uses Microsoft Azure cloud technology and artificial intelligence tools. It’s available on iOS, Android, an Windows operating systems. Data can be recorded in a wide variety of languages and translated using Microsoft technology, including speech-to-text and machine translation features.

Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith. (GeekWire File Photo)

“This new technology will promote fairness in trials by making the world a witness to what happens inside courtrooms,” said Microsoft President Brad Smith in a statement. “The TrialWatch app we developed with the Clooney Foundation for Justice will help human rights advocates monitor trials and share this data instantly with experts around the world. This is a critical step in upholding justice where it often matters the most – when a defendant’s freedom hinges on having a fair trial.”

TrialWatch has been piloted in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and Latin America over the past few months. The Clooney Foundation will assign trained volunteers to trials and a team of legal experts to review the data and issue reports on trial fairness.

Other TrialWatch partners include The American Bar Association, Columbia Law School, and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. In addition to the app, the TrialWatch team developed an online training program to help volunteers know what to look for in the courtroom.

Microsoft, the Clooney Foundation, and other partners will formally unveil TrialWatch at an event in New York today.

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