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Who we are

Who we are?
A team of activists and human rights defenders who are involved in the supervision of the courts in Saint Petersburg. Saint Petersburg non-governmantal human rights organization «Citizens’ Watch»* has been monitoring judicial processes since 1992, and since 2016 has attracted civil activists to this activity.

What is court monitoring?

This is the monitoring of trials. Its purpose is to ensure that trials meet international standards of justice. Court monitoring makes it possible to identify problems in the judicial system, such as violations of the principle of equality of arms, and to draw public attention to them. We believe that court monitoring helps to improve the functioning of the courts and enables the judges to reach fair decisions.

Who conducts court monitoring?

Observers go to court trials. The received data are analyzed and published in reports by experts of the HR NGO «Citizens’ Watch».

Who are the observers and what is their motivation?

Our observers are volunteers – ordinary people who want to live in a State governed by the rule of law. You can find our team here.

What good can we do?

  • Monitoring enables problems in the judicial system to be identified and addressed. The improvement of the judicial system guarantees the fairness of judicial proceedings;
  • The presence of the public has a deterrent effect on all participants and the judge. They are becoming more attentive to procedural guarantees, which has a positive impact on the judicial process;
  • The coverage of court proceedings makes the work of the court transparent and thus understandable to the ordinary person. This increases confidence in the judicial system;
  • The observers improve their legal literacy, their knowledge of the judicial system and their rights.

How do we work?

Court monitoring begins with the selection of cases, a list of which is made available to observers, and then observers attends court sessions. Observers attend the trials as members of public and are not interested in the outcome of the case. This means that they do not support either of the parties, nor are they relatives or friends of the parties. During the monitoring, observers draw attention to respect for the rights of participants in the proceedings and the work of judges, court staff and prosecutors.

How are cases selected for monitoring?

The sole criterion for the choice of a case is its public significance, that is, the decision in the case must be important not only for the parties of the dispute (family disputes, debt recovery, consumer protection cases, etc.) but also for the whole society.

We are interested in cases of hate crimes, freedom of expression and assembly, trials of detainees during protests, demonstrations and pickets, trials for publications on the Internet, claims for reputational damages against the media, etc. We are interested in the development of public control, therefore we monitor the courts related to the activities of the POC (Public Oversight Commissions for places of deprivation of liberty), with the work of election observers.

This list is not closed. You can offer a case you’re interested in.

How is court monitoring organized?

All starts with trainings for future observers of monitors as we call them. The trainings are conducted by «Citizens’ Watch». The topics of the training are the Russian judicial system, the right to a fair trial, the rights of public in courts and monitoring methodology. Trained observers attend trials and fill out Google-forms. Experts form «Citizens’ Watch» analyze information from questionnaires, identify problems and formulate recommendations for governmental bodies. Monitoring reports are published on the Independent Public Portal on Impartial Trial Monitoring.

What are we monitoring?

Everything that happens in court. Whether the judge follows the standards of judicial ethics, treats the parties equally, and the presumption of innocence is respected. The observers draw attention to the accessibility and transparency of the court: whether all the necessary information is published on the court’s website, whether the bailiffs allow everyone to enter the courtroom, whether the court clerks make copies of the listeners’ passports, whether the judge forbids the audio recording of the proceedings and whether the proceedings are adjourned without sufficient justification.

Join us in our work!

* Оn 30.12.2014 Citizens’ Watch was registered as a foreign agent by the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation

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