Amal Clooney Returns to Columbia Law to Teach International Human Rights Law

Clooney currently represents Yazidi people seeking justice for war crimes committed by ISIS.

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New York, March 23, 2018—International human rights lawyer Amal Clooney returns to Columbia Law this spring as a visiting professor of law and senior fellow with the Human Rights Institute. She will co-teach a core course with Columbia Law Professor Sarah Cleveland that examines human rights from a historical, analytical and practical perspective.


International human rights lawyer Amal Clooney
International human rights lawyer Amal Clooney

Clooney, who previously taught the course with Cleveland in 2015 and 2016, is a barrister with London-based Doughty Street Chambers, specializing in public international law, international criminal law, and human rights.

“I am thrilled to be co-teaching with Amal again,” said Cleveland, the Louis Henkin Professor of Human and Constitutional Rights and faculty co-director of the Law School’s Human Rights Institute. “Students love her. She is deeply committed to human rights, and she brings tremendous expertise as a leading international human rights lawyer who has practiced before numerous regional and international institutions.”

Cleveland and Clooney both draw on their professional backgrounds in the classroom. Cleveland, former counselor on international law to the legal adviser at the U.S. Department of State, serves as the U.S. independent expert on both the United Nations Human Rights Committee and the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe.

Clooney is a barrister who has represented clients ranging from political prisoners and ousted heads of state to individuals denied the right to a fair trial and those seeking accountability for genocide and other atrocities. She is currently counsel to Nadia Murad and other Yazidi survivors working to ensure accountability for war crimes committed by ISIS.

A frequent adviser to governments on international law who has appeared before the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court and the European Court of Human Rights, Clooney will provide students with a deeper understanding of the international human rights framework. Among the subjects she will cover are the role of the UN in protecting human rights, the enforcement of human rights, international criminal justice, the right to freedom of expression, and the right to a fair trial in international law—the focus of her forthcoming book.

“I am delighted to return to Columbia Law School as a visiting professor and to co-teach the Human Rights course with Professor Sarah Cleveland once again,” Clooney said. “This is a time when the importance of human rights and the power of young people as agents of social change have never been clearer. I look forward to meeting the next generation of legal thinkers and human rights leaders on campus this spring.”

Clooney has held a number of posts within the United Nations, including as senior adviser to Kofi Annan when he was the U.N.’s envoy on Syria. She also served as counsel to a U.N. inquiry on the use of armed drones led by the Special Rapporteur on Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights. Prior to joining the London Bar, Clooney worked in The Hague with various U.N.-sponsored justice mechanisms including the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

In 2016, Clooney and her husband George established The Clooney Foundation for Justice to advance justice in courtrooms, classrooms, and communities around the world. Current projects include partnerships with the Southern Poverty Law Center to litigate on behalf of marginalized and vulnerable communities targeted by hate; a project with UNICEF which has opened the door to eight public schools that will educate 3,000 Syrian refugee children in Lebanon; and an initiative called ‘TrialWatch’, which will deploy monitors to trials all over the world in which a defendant’s human rights are at risk and help to produce a Justice Index ranking states’ performance.  The Foundation is also providing financial and other support for victims of war seeking to rebuild their lives in the United States.

Clooney is admitted to the New York Bar and before specializing in international law practiced as a litigation attorney at Sullivan & Cromwell LLP in New York.

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Posted on March 23, 2018

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