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Amal and George Clooney speak at Oxford’s New Theatre

Amal and George Clooney made an appearance at New Theatre in Oxford as part of the Skoll World Forum annual summit last Friday. The couple discussed their work at the Clooney Foundation for Justice, storytelling, and the consequences and importance of speaking out against dictators and oppressive regimes.

Amal Clooney, who is an alumna of St Hugh’s, is a barrister specialising in human rights cases. Her most notable clients include high-profile journalists such as Julian Assange, Maria Ressa, and Mohamed Fahmy, as well as former world leaders Yulia Tymoshenko and Mohamed Nasheed.

She spoke about supporting ISIS victims in German courts: “In every case, my clients have come and put themselves into witness protection programmes, some of them are illiterate. They take the stand, they’re speaking in a foreign language, and for days they’re staring down in court the person who can help them enslaved, who abused them, and they tell their story in a way that nobody else could.

“At the end of the trial is the time of the verdict. And the judge says, “You’re guilty of genocide’ in an international courtroom and sentenced him to life imprisonment. He then faints, and she sounds strong. It was just amazing.”

“My wife’s a badass”, George added, “the only person to put ISIS on trial, the only one.”

The 2024 Skoll World Forum is the 20th “annual gathering where the world’s most influential social entrepreneurs and thought leaders come together to exchange ideas for a better world.” The forum has previously hosted speakers such as Malala Yousafazi, Desmond Tutu and Jimmy Carter. The 2024 forum also hosted other notable speakers such as Dame Jacinda Ardern, former Prime Minister of New Zealand, and Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland.

The forum was set up by the Skoll Foundation which was founded by ex-eBay president Jeffrey Skoll. The foundation had an endowment of $1,127,000,000, as reported in 2018, which it uses to make grants and investments intended to reduce global poverty.

The Skoll Foundation told Cherwell: “Oxford’s Skoll Centre has always played an integral role in bringing people together to progress the agenda for global socio-economic innovation and is constantly striving to improve how we can impact positive change across the world.”

The Clooney Foundation for Justice focuses on achieving justice for victims of human rights abuses, especially those who had their rights violated during warfare. They centre their work on vulnerable communities: journalists, women and girls, democracy defenders, LGBTQ+ persons and minorities. In 2022, the Foundation launched the Waging Justice for Women initiative, advocating for reform of gender discriminatory laws and the ending of gender based violence. Amal Clooney discussed the tightening of abortion laws within the United States, such as the recent revival of a law from 1864 banning nearly all abortions in Arizona. 

In October, the Clooney Foundation for Justice filed a case in Germany requesting an investigation into the crimes committed in Ukraine, representing 16 survivors and victims’ relatives. Beyond this, they have previously defended protesters in Hong Kong, prosecuted a warlord in the Democratic Republic of Congo and represented journalists in Belarus. 

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