She lightened her caseload during a short maternity leave after welcoming twins Ella and Alexander last year, but Amal Clooney has just taken on a powerful new cause. The Beirut-born human rights lawyer is representing two Reuters reporters, who have been accused of breaching Myanmar’s state secrets law while reporting on the killing of Rohingya Muslims in the Asian country. Clooney visited the United Nations headquarters in New York this week to attend a panel discussion on the incarceration of journalists worldwide, where she drew attention to her clients.
Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, and Wa Lone, 32, were sentenced this month to seven years in prison, but Clooney used the UN event to call for their immediate pardon. “The president can grant a pardon any time after a conviction,” the barrister said, according to the Independent. ”The journalists’ families have already submitted a pardon request. This case began with authorization from the government at the highest level, all the way up to the president’s office. And the government can, if it wants to, end it today.”
The journalists had been working on a report for Reuters about the death of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys, at a time when more than 700,000 Rohingya refugees have been forced to flee to neighboring Bangladesh amid persecution and violence in their native Myanmar. Clooney called for the country’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, to step up, appealing to the politician’s own experience of incarceration. “She is the Nobel Peace Prize winner whose name was whispered in the halls of St. Hugh’s College, Oxford, where she and I both studied,” said Clooney. “When I was a student, she was a hero to me, as she has been to so many human rights advocates around the world and to so many of the 50 million people in Myanmar, whose lives she promised to change.
“Aung San Suu Kyi knows better than anyone what it is like to be a political prisoner in Myanmar. She has slept in a cell at the prison where Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo now sleep. But today, she holds the key… History will judge her on her response.”
Clooney is not the first A-lister to speak out on the atrocities in Myanmar, either – last month, Cate Blanchett implored the UN Security Council to come to the aid of refugees. “I am a mother, and I saw my own children in the eyes of every single refugee child that I met,” Blanchett, who visited Bangladesh in March, told the UN. “How can any mother endure seeing her child thrown into a fire? Their experiences will never leave me.” The actress also paid tribute to Bangladesh for sheltering displaced Rohingya, questioning: “If people with so little can step up, why can’t we do it better?”