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Amal Clooney: A free expression ally

Human rights lawyer Amal Clooney has represented numerous high-profile clients fighting for their right to freedom of expression, including Canadian-Egyptian journalist Mohamed Fahmy and Azerbaijani investigative reporter Khadija Ismayilova.

REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

Reflecting on the case of prominent Azerbaijani journalist Khadija Ismayilova, Amal Clooney told RFE/RL:

I believe it's important to protect an individual journalist against a powerful state that has overstepped. This is about a government that is abusing its power to silence journalists like Khadija, as well as other critics of the ruling regime.

Amal Clooney (née Alamuddin) is a trilingual, award-winning barrister specializing in international law and human rights. She currently works with Doughty Street Chambers, a British firm “renowned for and committed to defending freedom and civil liberties.”

Since 2014, Clooney has received an immense amount of media attention for her marriage to actor George Clooney and her fashion sense. But the British-Lebanese lawyer was renowned in her field long before entertainment tabloids tracked her every outfit – and for good reason.

Clooney has represented high-profile clients including former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko (over her politically-motivated detention), and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange (in extradition proceedings).

Her client profile also includes Canadian-Egyptian journalist Mohamed Fahmy, who returned to Canada in October 2015 after spending two years in an Egyptian prison over 'terrorism-related' charges. Numerous IFEX members – particularly Canadian Journalists for Free Expression – advocated for Fahmy's release. When Fahmy and his colleague Baher Mohamed were pardoned in September 2015, Clooney stated “This is a historic day in Egypt where the government has finally corrected a longstanding injustice, and set two innocent men free.”

In January 2016, it was announced that Clooney would represent the award-winning investigative Azerbaijani journalist Khadija Ismayilova, who had been behind bars since 2014 on what many consider to be politically-motivated charges. She was freed on a suspended prison sentence in May 2016. Many IFEX members, campaigned for Ismayilova's release, and continue to call for all the charges to be dropped and that she be granted complete freedom.

"It's important to fight for the right of journalists to tell the world what is happening in their countries," Clooney told RFE/RL in an e-mail regarding Ismayilova's case.

In addition to her extensive case profile, Clooney is a member of the Expert Panel of Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative - which seeks to gather evidence of sexual crimes committed in conflict zones. She is also representing Nadia Murad, a Yazidi woman who suffered rape and sexual violence at the hands of ISIS, and together they are calling for the UN and Iraqi government to carry out an investigation into the group's atrocities.

Clooney was a visiting professor at Columbia Law School during 2015 and 2016.

In late 2016, Amal and George Clooney set up the Clooney Foundation for Justice. Its first director is David Pressman, US ambassador for political affairs to the UN. The Foundation works with Syrian and Yazidi refugees, and also runs a 'trial watch' program to monitor trials where human rights are at risk.


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