Saturday, 17 January 2015

Amal Clooney representing Abdullah al-Senussi

[The following are excerpts from an article published yesterday on The World Post website, hosted by The Huffington Post:]

While Amal Clooney's resumé reads like most human rights activists' wildest dreams (stints working for the UN, heads of states, and ambassadors are not easy to come by) the term "human rights lawyer" is somewhat misunderstood by the public to mean "saint." (...)

Clooney's client list includes not only the ostensible "good guys" like former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, but also very questionable characters like the King of Bahrain and Abdullah al Senussi. (...)

Abdullah al Senussi, another one of Clooney's clients, served as Muammar Gaddafi's intelligence chief and was captured in Libya in 2011. The International Criminal Court charged him with crimes against humanity in 2011 for his role in Gaddafi's brutal government as well as the Lockerbie bombing. [RB: I can find no evidence that charges have been brought against Senussi in relation to Lockerbie.] Clooney's decision to continue to work on his defense drew some fire after she became engaged to her current spouse, as if her professional life might take a backseat to her then-fiancé's humanitarian image. Clooney's primary role in the case appears to be appealing the decision to hold the trial in Libya's domestic courts, however, claiming her client's right to meet with his lawyers was denied by the ICC.

Clooney herself justified her choice to work on behalf of al Senussi, saying that everyone has a right to a defense lawyer (extremely true) and criticizing the International Criminal Court for violating the rights of her client. Even though this may seem ironic, given the charges of human rights violations against al Senussi, due process is an integral, essential part of the international legal structure, and failures to uphold due process undermine the entire system. When it comes to those accused of war crimes or human rights violations, this includes the right to a defense, which Clooney provided professionally and convincingly in al Senussi's case. What's more, Clooney, while being many other laudable things, is also a lawyer, and lawyers make their living and reputation from acting as both prosecution and defense.

Clooney's defense of al Senussi and legal advising to [Bahraini King Hasan bin Isa] al Khalifa is part of her success as a lawyer, and defense as well as prosecution is essential to ensure the functioning of international human rights law. It is a reminder that human rights lawyers are still lawyers, professionals who need to make a career by playing both sides of the courtroom.

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