Amal Clooney: Barrister and Advocate for Justice and Human Rights


Abstract: Various ruling regimes, extremist groups, and terrorist organizations violate human rights around the globe. In response, there are individuals, both men and women, who tirelessly work to confront these injustices and bring about change. In Iran, where theocratic tyranny may seem insurmountable, there are compelling instances that prove otherwise. Globally recognized for her involvement in numerous human rights and press freedom cases, Amal Clooney has not only exposed international misconduct by the Iranian leadership but also demonstrated solidarity with the Iranian people during protests following the tragic death of Mahsa Amini. An overview of her career is presented in this study.

Introduction and Professional Overview

Amal Ramzi Alamuddin Clooney is a distinguished British human rights lawyer, who has achieved international recognition for her legal work[1]. At three years old, Mrs. Clooney’s family relocated to the United Kingdom from Lebanon[2]giving her an international and multicultural perspective from a very young age. Her expertise in international law and human rights makes her a prominent figure in the international legal field. Her rise to global recognition was further enhanced by her marriage to the renowned actor George Clooney in 2014[3], which brought their philanthropic endeavors to the public’s attention. One of their first acts of philanthropy as a couple was to donate the proceeds from their wedding photographs to the Satellite Sentinal Project, which monitors human rights atrocities in Sudan (AZ news). While Amal Clooney has used her celebrity status to bring attention to human rights legal activism and representation, her dedication to advocating for human rights started long before her marriage to Mr. Clooney.

All before the age of 25, Amal Alamuddin (her maiden name before marrying George Clooney) attained two law degrees and was admitted to the bar, allowing her to practice law in the United States, England and Wales, as well as international law. Mrs. Clooney’s passion for international human rights law and advocacy, mainly focused on marginalized populations, can be better understood by looking into her identity.

Amal Alamuddin was born in a civil war stricken Lebanon in 1978 and had to move away with her parents in search of security quickly.[4] Amal’s mother is a Sunni follower while her father is a member of the Druze community,[5] an ethnoreligious minority who make up a mere 5.2% of the Lebanese population.[6] Mrs. Clooney has not only gained academic knowledge of the importance of representing marginalized populations, but has learned so through personal experiences shared by her father, growing up in a Sunni majority country. Another lesson on human rights and freedoms that comes from her family background her being the product of an interfaith marriage. Many populations around the world suffer from laws blocking interfaith marriages, wrongfully controlling private matters of people’s lives. Amal’s parents’ interfaith marriage, as well as her own with George, provide her with an appreciation and understanding for the importances of freedoms of religion and expression which are further illustrated in her work but come from her heart.

Amal’s reputation in the legal community is well established, as evidenced by her inclusion in legal directories such as Legal 500. Observers and colleagues describe her as a ‘brilliant legal mind’ who effectively handles cases of significant international significance[7]. Known for her meticulous preparation and ‘tactically first-class’ approach, she embodies a unique combination of pragmatism and intellectual depth. In legal directories, she is praised for her “superb advocacy” and compelling presence in courtrooms. Her innovative approaches, including mobilizing heads of state, foreign ministers, and business figures to benefit victims of human rights violations, have made her known as a ‘dream performer before international tribunals[8]. Amal Clooney gained invaluable experience working at the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, all located in The Hague[9].

Through her lectures on international criminal law, which she has delivered at esteemed institutions such as the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, the New School in New York City, the Hague Academy of International Law, and the University of North Carolina, her commitment to education and dissemination of knowledge is evident.[10]

Besides her influence, this Lebanese-British legal luminary is also an author and advocate for freedom of the press, highlighting her belief in the power of written human rights resources that play a key role in advocacy work, outside the classroom. During 2018-2019 she extended her legal acumen to represent Reuters journalists who were unjustly detained while reporting on the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar[11].

Clooney in 2014[12]

As part of her professional repertoire, Amal Clooney has represented clients before esteemed international courts, including the International Criminal Court, the International Court of Justice, and the European Court of Human Rights. She offers expert legal advice to both governments and individuals on matters that fall within her field of expertise in addition to her courtroom activities.

Significant Work and Achievements

Amal Clooney’s career as a human rights attorney has included a wide range of high-profile cases and advocacy efforts that have made a lasting impression on the international stage. The work she has done in various regions around the world is characterized by a commitment to justice, human rights, and accountability. Clooney has been involved in a number of notable cases over the course of her career, demonstrating her versatility and dedication to addressing complex legal issues. She has represented marginalized individuals and communities in diverse geographical regions, including Malawi, Darfur, Egypt, Myanmar, and Azerbaijan[13]. Additionally, she has served as Counsel to the UN Inquiry on the use of armed drones, addressing concerns related to the use of this technology in counter-terrorist activities.

Lawyers Amal Clooney and Geoffrey Robertso participating in the hearing before the European Court of Human Rights[14]

One of her most notable accomplishments was serving as an advisor to former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on a United Nations commission responsible for addressing the Syrian crisis. She has made significant contributions to addressing one of the most pressing global challenges in recent years as a result of this position. Moreover, in 2013, she participated in an inquiry concerning the use of drones in counter-terrorist operations, advocating for protecting human rights within the context of security measures.

Also, Clooney has advocated for women’s rights and addressed gender-based violence. One example is the case of investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova, who had been unjustly imprisoned in Azerbaijan[15] and Clooney believed that there was no justification for her charges and her pretrial detention.[16]

As a result of this accomplishment, Clooney has demonstrated her commitment to free expression and defending those who are subjected to mistreatment as a result of their work. In the years following her wedding, Amal Clooney utilized her legal expertise and celebrity status to advocate for high-profile cases. As part of her address to the United Nations Correspondents Association in 2018, she issued a stern warning regarding the persecution of journalists throughout the world[17] .  

Amal has consistently ensured that women who have been victims of mass atrocities, including genocide and sexual violence, are not forgotten[18]. She was engaged in a landmark human rights case and trial in which an ISIS member was convicted of committing genocide against Yazidis’ community members, a religious minority in northern Iraq and parts of Turkey, Syria, and Iran[19]. Her representation of Yazidi victims in a case implicating complicity in crimes against humanity by a company that funded the terror group is emblematic of her pursuit of accountability on multiple fronts. About her work with Yazidi activist, Nadia Murad, she has expressed the actions and her goal as:

“Nadia became the first Yazidi woman to speak publicly about what happened to her, and thousands of other women and girls. Instead of allowing ISIS to silence her, she has spent every day telling the world what happened, and shaming them to do something. She has implored leaders to either give Yazidis safe refuge or help make her homeland safe enough for their return. She has challenged heads of Arab states to do more to promote moderate Islam. And she and I have lobbied governments and the United Nations with one message: ISIS must be prosecuted because survivors deserve justice.“[20]

Clooney and Murad, 2017[21]

As part of her international advocacy, Amal Clooney has addressed the suppression of press freedom. She has spoken at a number of significant events, including a press freedom event at the United Nations. She sought to draw attention to Aung San Suu Kyi’s fame as a human rights advocate and used it to advocate for the release of activists Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa Lone[22]. Clooney was also the UK’s Special Envoy for Media Freedom from April 2019 to September 2020[23].

Additionally, she was appointed as a Special Advisor to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court on Darfur in 2021. As part of her work, she led a legal task force on Accountability for Crimes Committed in Ukraine, which was established by the Ukrainian government at the request of victims of crimes committed by Russia in Ukraine. Additionally, she serves on the Working Group on Compensation for Damage Caused to Ukraine, a group of international legal experts appointed by President Zelensky to advise on compensation mechanisms for survivors of conflict.

In September 2021, Amal Clooney was appointed as a Special Adviser to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) for the Darfur region of Sudan. In that case, prosecutors allege that government forces and militias backed by Khartoum committed genocide. As a legal representative for 126 survivors of crimes committed in Darfur, she was involved in a case against a leader of the government-backed Janjaweed militia[24], demonstrating her continued commitment to seeking justice and accountability. She describes the importance of the Sudan case as

“I’m now working as a special adviser to the International Criminal Court prosecutor on Darfur, and one of the cases before the court is that of former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. If successful, it sends a really important message that a former head of state can be hauled to the Hague and be put in the dock and face his accusers. For the survivors, it’s what they want and deserve. And for the credibility of the court, it’s important that they have a success like that.”[25]

Clooney is a Visiting Professor at Columbia Law School, where she teaches a Human Rights course with Professor Sarah Cleveland[26]. Additionally, as a co-founder of the Clooney Foundation for Justice[27], she has played an integral role in shaping the foundation’s vision and mission. In response to global challenges, the foundation actively pursues justice, human rights, and accountability. The organization’s flagship program, “Waging Justice for Women,” reflects her commitment to combating gender-based injustices, reforming discriminatory laws, and increasing accountability for gender-based abuse through strategic litigation.[28] The Clooney Foundation’s X (formerly Twitter) account responded to the 2022 events in Iran, asking governments that believe in human rights to use every tool at their disposal to support the protesters in Iran and ensure those responsible for violence are held accountable. [29]

Vision and Motivation

Amal Clooney’s approach to her work reflects a set of core principles that guide her legal career, advocacy, and philanthropic efforts. These principles, as observed and articulated by her or those who have closely worked with her, offer profound insights into what drives her dedication.

Amal Clooney’s vision is driven by her empathy for her clients and their causes. Clients, like journalist and former political prisoner, Maria Ressa have described her empathy as a force equal to her legal knowledge and courage.[30] It is this empathy that transcends professional boundaries, resulting in a deep personal connection between Amal and her clients. Unlike conventional advice that legal practitioners should maintain a distance from their clients, she does not shy away from getting emotionally involved. Instead, she is known for her passionate belief in her clients’ causes, transforming her legal work into personal missions[31].

Another crucial aspect of her approach is her attention to detail. By thoroughly reviewing extensive documents, highlighting crucial points, and taking meticulous notes, Clooney ensures that she enters legal battles well-prepared and well-informed. A successful strategy requires a deep understanding of the nuances of each case.  

Amal and George Clooney, 2017[32]

Recognizing the power of her public profile, Clooney strategically leverages her visibility to spotlight critical issues. She understands the role her prominence plays in redirecting attention to critical matters. She once said that she cannot control the media’s focus, but relies on her work’s impact to speak for itself.

Amal also acknowledges the evolving landscape of attitudes and public perceptions, particularly regarding gender equality and women’s rights. She believes that female solidarity has grown stronger over the years, with more and more women supporting and empowering each other. This shift in public attitudes, particularly among women, has led to a greater solidarity and willingness to call out injustices and advocate for change[33].

Clooney places emphasis on responsible journalism and factual accuracy. She recognizes that lacking consensus on basic facts can hinder meaningful debates and responses to international crises[34]. Her dedication to facts and responsible journalism underpins her advocacy for informed and constructive dialogue. Clooney’s views also concern international crises and how democratic countries can create a more equitable world. According to her, UK laws must be amended to prevent Russian war criminals and perpetrators of genocide from visiting the country without fear of prosecution[35].

Context and environment of her work

The work environment and context of Amal Clooney are characterized by challenging and potentially dangerous conditions. Her experience includes taking cases in some of the world’s toughest and most oppressive environments, in which authoritarian leaders hold sway and advocating for one’s rights can be life-threatening. She often encounters women determined to challenge oppressive power structures in these challenging contexts, and she uses her legal expertise to empower them[36].

Amal Clooney in the panel discussion on media freedom at United Nations.[37]

Amal advocates for individuals who may be in dire situations, such as journalists who are imprisoned for their reporting. As part of her efforts to secure their release, she combines legal acumen with a thorough understanding of the political landscape, pragmatism, and effective public advocacy. She frequently encounters individuals and entities whose power and survival are linked to serious human rights abuses, so her work is not without risk[38].

The world she confronts has been described by her as one in which the guilty remain free while the innocent are imprisoned, and human rights abusers roam freely while those who report on their abuses are imprisoned. She faces formidable challenges when seeking justice in an environment where powerful individuals and entities resist accountability.

Furthermore, Amal has taken on cases of extreme danger and difficulty, such as the Yezidi cases, which were aimed at addressing ISIS’ systematic sexual abuse and slavery of women. She has made it a point to seek justice for those who are most vulnerable and oppressed as a hallmark of her work.

Despite the perils of her professional environment, Amal has found unwavering support in her personal life. She has described her marriage as a wonderful partnership, where she and her husband, George Clooney, inspire and support each other. Their home is filled with love and laughter, providing a supportive backdrop for her challenging and impactful work[39].


The remarkable career of Amal Clooney and her unwavering commitment to human rights, justice, and advocacy have made her a prominent figure on the global stage. Her work involves confronting despotic regimes, oppressive powers, and human rights abuses in some of the world’s most challenging environments, serving as a beacon of hope for those seeking justice and accountability. Additionally, her work encompasses empowerment, public awareness, and philanthropy.

As a professional, Amal is characterized by consistent support for women in oppressive environments, as well as ethnic minorities and other marginalized communities. Her empowerment of women is particularly relevant in the context of Iran, where women have played an important role in advocating for their rights and challenging oppressive power structures. A critical aspect of Amal’s work is to advocate for imprisoned journalists, aligning with the struggles faced by Iranian journalists who have been detained for their reporting, such as Niloufar Hamedi and Elaheh Mohammadi, two female journalists who arrested after  Mahsa Amini protests erupted because of breaking the news about her death. Amal has specifically said she was in awe of the courage demonstrated by Iranian women and girls who were fighting for their freedom and the men supporting them.

Mrs. Clooney exemplifies the importance of a strong support network for advocates in the challenging field of human rights through her personal life, particularly her marriage to George Clooney. As she emphasizes, achieving justice requires dedication and the recognition that it cannot be achieved simply by chance.  In her words, “Instead of abandoning international justice, we must stand up for it. Because justice is not inevitable. It doesn’t just happen.”[40] Despite the ongoing struggle for human rights in Iran, individuals such as Amal Clooney continue to be a source of hope and determination for those seeking to address human rights abuses and bring about positive change in the world.


[1] Amal Clooney Appointed Special Adviser to ICC Prosecutor, The Independent, Independent Digital News and Media, 17 Sept. 2021.

[2] Human Rights Lawyer Amal Clooney, Wife of George Clooney, Reportedly Pregnant with Twins, 9NEWS, 9 Feb. 2017.

[3] Amal and George Clooney Are the Ultimate Power Couple, Mirror, 2023.

[4] Amal Clooney: The education of the world’s most famous lawyer, Study International, 10 Feb 2023.

[5] Amal Alamuddin: George Clooney’s Betrothed a Star Among Druze Community, NBC NEWS, 2014.

[6] Druze in Lebanon, Minority Rights Group International.

[7] Amal Clooney Is a Barrister Who Specializes in International Law and Human Rights, Doughty Street Chambers, Accessed 21 Oct. 2023.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Amal Clooney, The lagal 500, Accessed 21 Oct. 2023.

[10] Amal Clooney Fights for Human Rights on an International Scale, International Women’s Day, Accessed 21 Oct. 2023.

[11] Amal Clooney, Lawyer, Activist and Author, The Business of Fashion, Accessed 21 Oct. 2023.

[12] Amal Clooney Fights for Human Rights on an International Scale, International Women’s Day, Accessed 21 Oct. 2023.

[13]  Amal Clooney Won’t Back Down, Maria Ressa, The Times, 2 Mar. 2022.

[14] Amal Clooney Begins Next Big Human Rights Case, The Times, 28 Jan. 2015.

[15]Amal Clooney, Woment, 11 May 2021.

[16] Clooney: I Will Fight for Jailed Azerbaijani Journalist ‘until She’s Free’, RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty, RFE/RL, 15 Mar. 2016.

[17] We Must Protect Journalists Shedding Light on Injustice, Not Attack Them, Amal Clooney, The Times, 28 Feb. 2018.

[18] Amal Clooney Won’t Back Down, Maria Ressa, The Times, 2 Mar. 2022.

[19] Yazīdī, Encyclopædia Britannica, inc., Mar. 12, 2024.

[20] We Must Protect Journalists Shedding Light on Injustice, Not Attack Them, Amal Clooney, The Times, 28 Feb. 2018.

[21] Amal Clooney Client Nadia Murad Shares Her Powerful Story in a New Interview, Morgan Evans, The Bazaar, 17 Mar. 2017.

[22]  Amal Clooney: Pardon Reuters Reporters Jailed in Myanmar, Foster Klug, AP, 28 Sept. 2018.

[23]  Amal Clooney, UK Governemnt, Accessed 21 Oct. 2023. 

[24]  Amal Clooney Appointed Special Adviser to ICC Prosecutor, The Independent, Independent Digital News and Media, 17 Sept. 2021.

[25] Amal Clooney Won’t Back Down, Maria Ressa, The Times, 2 Mar. 2022.

[26]   Amal Clooney Is a Barrister Who Specializes in International Law and Human Rights, Doughty Street Chambers, Accessed 21 Oct. 2023.

[27] Amal Clooney’s Work, Explained by International Human Rights Lawyers, Vanity Fair, 29 Mar. 2017. 

[28] Amal Clooney Won’t Back Down, Maria Ressa, The Times, 2 Mar. 2022.

[29]  We are asking governments that believe in human rights to use every tool at their disposal to support the protesters in #Iran and ensure that those responsible for violence and repression are held to account, Clooney Foundation [@ClooneyFDN], X (Twitter). 21 October 2022.

[30] Amal Clooney, UK Governemnt, Accessed 21 Oct. 2023.

[31] Amal Clooney Won’t Back Down, Maria Ressa, The Times, 2 Mar. 2022.

[32]  ZAHARA WARRIOR – AMAL CLOONEY, Zahara Warior, The Zahara, 19 Apr. 2017.

[33]  Amal Clooney Won’t Back Down, Maria Ressa, The Times, 2 Mar. 2022.

[34]  We Must Protect Journalists Shedding Light on Injustice, Not Attack Them, Amal Clooney, The Times, 28 Feb. 2018.

[35]  Amal Clooney Appointed Special Adviser to ICC Prosecutor, The Independent, Independent Digital News and Media, 17 Sept. 2021.

[36] Amal Clooney Won’t Back Down, Maria Ressa, The Times, 2 Mar. 2022.

[37] Amal Clooney Named Sudan Adviser to ICC Prosecutor, ARAB News. Accessed 21 Oct. 2023.

[38] Ibid.

[39] Amal Clooney Won’t Back Down, Maria Ressa, The Times, 2 Mar. 2022.

[40] Amal Clooney at Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards: ‘Justice Must Be Waged, Because Justice Is Not Inevitable, Zara Zhuang, Grazia Singapore, 12 May 2023.

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