Amal Clooney (née Alamuddin, Arabic: أمل علم الدين; born 3 February 1978) is a London-based Lebanese-British lawyer, activist, and author. She is a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers, specializing in international law, criminal law, human rights, and extradition. Her clients include Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, in his fight against extradition. She has also represented the former prime minister of Ukraine, Yulia Tymoshenko, and Canadian-Egyptian journalist Mohamed Fahmy.
Early life and family
Clooney was born in Beirut, Lebanon. During the 1980s, when the Lebanese Civil War was in full scale, the Alamuddin family left Lebanon for England and settled in Gerrards Cross. She was two years old at the time. Her father, Ramzi Alamuddin, who received his MBA degree at the American University of Beirut and was the owner of COMET travel agency, returned to Lebanon in 1991. He originally hails from a prominent Lebanese Druze family from the town of Baakline, a village in the Chouf district where many Lebanese Druze live.Her mother, Bariaa Alamuddin (née Miknass), is a foreign editor of the Pan-Arab newspaper al-Hayat and a founder of the public relations company International Communication Experts, which is part of a larger company that specializes in celebrity guest bookings, publicity photography, and event promotion. Bariaa is a Sunni Muslim from Tripoli, Lebanon, where a significant community of Lebanese Sunni Muslims live.
Clooney has three siblings—one sister, Tala, and two half-brothers, Samer and Ziad, from her father’s first marriage.
Clooney attended Dr Challoner’s High School, a girls’ grammar school located in Little Chalfont, Buckinghamshire. She then studied at St. Hugh’s College, Oxford, where she received an Exhibition and the Shrigley Award. In 2000, Clooney graduated with a BA degree in Jurisprudence (Oxford’s equivalent to the LLB) from St. Hugh’s College, Oxford.
The following year, in 2001, she entered New York University School of Law to study for the LLM degree, where she was a clerk for the clerkships program at the International Court of Justice. She received the Jack J. Katz Memorial Award for excellence in entertainment law. For one semester while at NYU, she worked as a student law clerk at the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in the offices of Sonia Sotomayor, who is now on the Supreme Court of the United States. In 2004, she worked at the International Court of Justice and was one of two NYU-sponsored clerks at the Court. She clerked under Judge Vladen S. Vereshchetin from Russia and Judge Nabil Elaraby from Egypt.
Clooney worked at Sullivan & Cromwell in New York City for three years as part of the Criminal Defense and Investigations Group, where her clients included Enron and Arthur Andersen. She worked in the Office of the Prosecutor at the UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon and at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
Clooney returned to Britain in 2010, where she became a barrister in London (Bar of England & Wales, Inner Temple) at Doughty Street Chambers. In 2013 Clooney was appointed to a number of United Nations commissions, including as adviser to Special Envoy Kofi Annan on Syria and as Counsel to the 2013 Drone Inquiry by UN human rights rapporteur Ben Emmerson QC into the use of drones in counter-terrorism operations.
She has been involved in high-profile cases representing the state of Cambodia, the former Libyan intelligence chief Abdallah Al Senussi, Yulia Tymoshenko and Julian Assange, and is an adviser to the King of Bahrain in connection with the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry headed by Professor M. Cherif Bassiouni.
For the spring 2015 academic semester, Clooney was a visiting faculty member and a senior fellow with Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute. She lectured in professor Sarah H. Cleveland’s Human Rights course and spoke about human rights litigation to students in the school’s Human Rights Clinic.
Clooney has lectured students on international criminal law at SOAS (University of London), The New School in New York City, The Hague Academy of International Law, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
In April 2011, Clooney worked a case involving the Cambodian-Thai border dispute regarding claims of ownership over the Temple of Preah Vihear. The dispute went before at the International Court of Justice at The Hague.
As of 2011, Clooney is assisting the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the arbitration between Merck Sharp and Dohme and the Republic of Ecuador.
Starting in the fall of 2014, Clooney represented Canadian Al Jazeera English journalist Mohamed Fahmy who, along with other journalists, was being held in Egypt. He was eventually sentenced to three years in prison and lost a retrial in August 2015 before finally being pardoned by Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
In August 2014, Clooney was selected for the UN’s three-member commission to look into possible violations of the rules of war in the Gaza Strip during the Israel–Gaza conflict. Clooney declined the position, stating that her other commitments did not allow her the time to participate.
In October 2014, Clooney became involved in the repatriation of ancient Greek sculptures called the Elgin Marbles for the Greek government. The sculptures have been part of the collection of the British Museum since 1816. In May 2015, Greece decided to stop legal proceedings to recover the sculptures.
In January 2015, Clooney began work on the recognition of the Armenian Genocide. She is representing Armenia on behalf of Doughty Street Chambers along with Geoffrey Robertson QC. She said Turkey’s stance was hypocritical “because of its disgraceful record on freedom of expression”, including prosecutions of Turkish-Armenians who campaign for the 1915 massacres to be called a genocide. She is representing Armenia in the case against Doğu Perinçek, whose 2007 conviction for genocide denial and racial discrimination was overturned in Perinçek v. Switzerland (2013). A “minor internet frenzy” resulted from her bon mot prior to the 28 January 2015 hearing. In response to a journalist pestering her over what designer gown she would be wearing in court, she replied “Ede & Ravenscroft” – the tailors who make her court robes.
On 7 April 2015, it was announced that Clooney would be part of the legal team defending Mohamed Nasheed, former President of the Maldives, in his ongoing arbitrary detention. Nasheed was sentenced to 13 years in jail in March 2015 following what was characterized as a politically-motivated trial. Amnesty International described his sentencing as a “travesty of justice.”
In June 2015, Clooney will begin work on the recently re-opened case brought by the Irish government against the British government regarding policies UK Prime Minister Edward Heath (1970–1974) used in Operation Demetrius that included the illegal interrogation methods known as five techniques. Working with Minister for Foreign Affairs Charles Flanagan, the case will be heard by the European Court of Human Rights.
Clooney is part of the legal team representing Louis Olivier Bancoult and Chagos islanders on their claim that they had been forced off their island, Diego Garcia, in 1971 by the UK government to make way for a U.S. military base.
On 25 February 2014, the Office of the UK Attorney General appointed Clooney for the period 2014 to 2019 to the C Panel of the Public International Law Panel of Counsel.
In May 2014, Clooney was a signatory of UNICEF UK and Jemima Khan’s open letter that urged on the public a call for “action from UK Government to protect women and children”.
On 2 January 2015, it was reported by The Guardian that before Clooney was involved as Rapporteur in the case against Mohamed Fahmy, Clooney had written a report in February 2014 for the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) that was critical of Egypt’s judiciary process. Clooney and others were warned that there was a strong possibility they would be arrested if they entered Egypt — as a result of the criticism.
Clooney is fluent in Arabic, English and French. Her father is Druze. Her mother is a Sunni Muslim. Some reports have described Clooney as a Muslim. She became engaged to actor George Clooney on 28 April 2014. Her first name is derived from Arabic أمل ʾamal, meaning “hope”.
In July 2014, George Clooney publicly criticized the British tabloid newspaper the Daily Mail after it claimed his fiancée’s mother opposed their marriage on religious grounds. When the tabloid apologized for its false story, Clooney refused to accept the apology. He called the paper “the worst kind of tabloid. One that makes up its facts to the detriment of its readers.”
On 7 August 2014, the couple obtained marriage licences at the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea of the United Kingdom. They married on 27 September 2014 in Venice’s city hall (at Ca’ Farsetti), following a star-studded wedding ceremony two days earlier, also in Venice. They were married by Clooney’s friend Walter Veltroni, a former mayor of Rome. The wedding was widely reported in the media. In October 2014, it was announced that the couple had bought the Mill House on an island in the River Thames at Sonning Eye in England at a cost of around £10 million.
Works and publications
- Khan, Karim A. A., Caroline Buisman, and Christopher Gosnell. Principles of Evidence in International Criminal Justice. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010. ISBN 978-0-19-958892-3
- “Collection of evidence” by Amal Alamuddin pp. 231–305
- Alamuddin, Amal, and Philippa Webb. 2010. “Expanding Jurisdiction Over War Crimes Under Article 8 of the ICC Statute”. Journal of International Criminal Justice. 8, no. 5: 1219–1243. ISSN 1478-1387 doi: 10.1093/jicj/mqq066
- Alamuddin, Amal. April 2012 “Does Libya Have to Surrender Saif Al-slam Gaddafi to The Hague?” Mizaan: The Newsletter from Lawyers for Justice in Libya. Issue 1.
- Alamuddin, Amal. 10 December 2012. “Will Syria go to the ICC?” The Lawyer magazine.
- Alamuddin, Amal, and Nadia Hardman, Report of the International Bar Association Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), Supported by the Open Society Foundations Arab Regional Office. PDF Separating Law and Politics: Challenges to the Independence of Judges and Prosecutors in Egypt. International Bar Association Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), February 2014.
- Zidar, Andraž, and Olympia Bekou. Contemporary Challenges for the International Criminal Court. London : British Institute of International and Comparative Law, 2014. ISBN 978-1-905221-51-6
- “The role of the Security Council in starting and stopping cases at the International Criminal Court: problems of principle and practice” by Amal Alamuddin pp. 103–130
- Alamuddin, Amal, Nidal Nabil Jurdi, and David Tolbert, eds. The Special Tribunal for Lebanon: Law and Practice. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press, 2014. ISBN 978-0-19-968745-9
- “The UN investigation of the Hariri assassination” by Amal Alamuddin and Anna Bonini
- “The relationship between the UN investigation commission and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon: Problems of Principle and Practice” by Amal Alamuddin
- Alamuddin, Amal. 19 August 2014. The Anatomy of an Unfair Trial. Huffington Post.
- Clooney, Amal. 30 April 2015. “Release Mohamed Nasheed – an innocent man and the Maldives’ great hope.” The Guardian.
- Clooney, Amal. 14 October 2015. Maldives Backslides Into Repression as the World Calls for President Nasheed’s Release. Huffington Post.
- Clooney, Amal, and H. Morrison and P. Webb. The Right to a Fair Trial in International Law. Oxford University Press: 2016. (forthcoming)