Amal Alamuddin Clooney, wife of the well-known American actor George Clooney, has risen to prominence in the U.S. largely due to her husband’s fame. But Amal deserves recognition and respect in her own right for her work as a distinguished human rights lawyer. In recent years, it appears that her identity as a successful Lebanese-British lawyer and prosecutor has been highlighted more due to her identity as a Hollywood celebrity connected to her husband. Still, she uses her voice and influence to represent victims of gross human rights violations, atrocities, and political persecutions.
In 2016, Amal Clooney – then a budding human rights attorney, sat at the United Nations (UN) next to her client, Nadia Murad, a 23-year-old Yazidi woman who survived torture and sexual slavery in Iraq. In a stirring speech, Amal blasted the UN for its failure to bring a single member of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to face justice for the genocide against the Yazidi people in Iraq. The terrorist group massacred and brutalized thousands of innocent civilians when it controlled nearly 40 percent of the Iraqi territory between 2014 and 2017 and a third of Syria between 2014 and 2019.
Amal blasted the UN in 2016 for its failure to bring a single member of ISIS to face justice for the genocide against the Yazidi people in Iraq.
In her opening remarks, Amal stated: “This is the first time I have spoken in this chamber. I wish I could say I’m proud to be here, but I am not. I am ashamed as a supporter of the United Nations that states are failing to prevent or even punish genocide because they find that their own interests get in the way.”
“I am ashamed as a lawyer that there is no justice being done and barely a complaint being made about it. I am ashamed as a woman that girls like Nadia could have their bodies sold and used as battlefields,” she continued, and later allowed Nadia to give a heart-wrenching account of her abuse at the hands of ISIS.[Nadia Murad’s Extraordinary Courage to Live and Fight ISIS]
In that moment of truth at the UN, it was stunning to watch the two women try to awaken the world’s conscience and urge it to do something about crimes perpetrated against the Iraqi people before the terrorists were gone and all evidence was destroyed. The courage and moral clarity of the two women stood in contrast with international leaders at the UN who knew about mass atrocities and genocide in Iraq all along – often watching the horrors unfold on live TV – and did extraordinarily little. Alas, since the 2016 meeting at the UN, the intergovernmental organization still has not brought any ISIS terrorist responsible for the genocide to trial.
Yet, Amal’s speech – damning the UN for its inaction in the face of continued persecution of Yazidis and other Iraqis – cemented her as one of the few high-profile individuals, let alone world leaders, to actively pursue legal action against ISIS. And this was not the first time she took on a big international case dealing with human rights abuses.
Amal was not born into fame or success. She and her family fled her native Beirut to England during the 15-year-long civil war in Lebanon when she was two-years-old. She was an outstanding student at Oxford University and New York University (NYU), where she earned her Masters of Law degree, before launching her successful career. During her studies at NYU, she worked as a clerk for future Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor at the U.S. Court of Appeals and at the International Court of Justice.
Amal is licensed to practice law in the U.S. and UK. She also practices at international courts in The Hague. A sought-after legal mind, she has been a top UK lawyer in leading legal directories Chambers and Partners and Legal 500, where she is praised for her intellectual depth, salient knowledge of public international law, and ability to effectively connect with heads of state and influence them.
Amal has taught human rights law in Columbia Law School and worked on major international cases.
Amal has taught human rights law in Columbia Law School and worked on major international cases. This includes representing politically persecuted journalists in Myanmar, Egypt, and Azerbaijan and former heads of state of Ukraine, Maldives, and the Philippines. She served as a prosecutor in cases against former President of Serbia Slobodan Milosevic for international crimes in Kosovo and a Libyan intelligence chief for crimes against humanity in Libya. She also represented Armenia in a case regarding denial of the Armenian genocide. In 2020, the Committee to Protect Journalists gave her the Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award for “extraordinary and sustained achievement in the cause of press freedom.”
Amal Clooney’s charisma is not only due to her intelligence, eloquence, drive, and professional achievements. She is bluntly honest in calling out the bigotry, intolerance, and ignorance of divisive leaders, such as Donald Trump, as well as the apathy and cowardice of government leaders around the world to bring war criminals to justice.
Amal has also been critical of the UK’s violation of international law. In 2020, she stepped down from her prestigious role as the UK’s special envoy on media freedom for what she described as Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s “lamentable” plan to override parts of the UK’s withdrawal agreement from the European Union – a move that largely received praise in Britain.
Amal has remained private and focused on building her legal career since marrying George Clooney in 2014.
With a last name that is popular in Hollywood and indeed around the world, Amal could have easily capitalized on it to gain greater fame. However, she has remained private and focused on building her legal career since marrying George Clooney in 2014. Apart from her exquisite fashion style and polished appearance, she has not called attention to her persona or to her marriage to Clooney, but to the importance of her legal cases and protection of human rights.
In 2020, Amal warned that the global pandemic from the novel COVID-19 disease has worsened human rights abuses around the world and allowed more than 80 governments to grab more power over their people.
In the face of growing populism, nativism, nationalism, and authoritarianism in the world, Amal Clooney has shown that she wants her passion for protecting individual liberty, freedom of expression, and liberal democracy to be in the limelight as a source of inspiration—and not her celebrity status.