Amal Clooney and Philippa Webb address students, alumni and Faculty members

Amal Clooney speaking at a lecturn with audience members in front of her
image courtesy of Oxford Atelier

On 15 May the Faculty was delighted to welcome Amal Clooney and Philippa Webb to St Hugh’s College. The day comprised a ‘conversazione’ between Philippa and Kate O’Regan, Director of the Bonavero Institute for Human Rights, and a lecture given by Amal and Philippa.

Amal, an alumna of St Hugh's College, is a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers who specialises in international law and human rights. Amal is also an Adjunct Professor at Columbia Law School where she co-teaches International Law and Human Rights and in 2016, she co-founded the Clooney Foundation for Justice to advance justice through accountability for human rights abuses around the world.

Philippa Webb is Professor of Public International Law at King’s College London and a Visiting Fellow at Exeter College. In 2022, she was an Academic Visitor at the Oxford Law Faculty. Philippa is also a barrister at Twenty Essex and a board member of the Clooney Foundation for Justice.

Philippa Webb seated at a table with bottles of water in front of her.

The speakers, who recently published 'The Right to a Fair Trial in International Law' revealed that they have a second book on another fundamental right coming out in January: ‘Freedom of Speech in International Law’. Amal has co-edited the book with Lord Neuberger, the former President of the UK Supreme Court and Philippa has co-authored two chapters.

​In their lecture 'Waging Justice in an Age of Authoritarianism', Amal spoke about the right to a fair trial being the right on which all other rights depend.

She said:
"Our thesis is that justice must be waged because justice is not a state; it’s an act. And it is not inevitable: it doesn’t just happen on its own. We have to wage justice, fiercely and constantly: in the police precincts, prisons and courtrooms around the world. It is our great hope that we can contribute to this fight for justice: one case at a time."

Philippa spoke about some of the legal tools that can be used to wage justice - specifically how to wage justice by fighting for free speech and fair trials.

She referred to the silencing of dissent and the manipulation of the truth by autocratic states and also to their use of sham trials.

During the Q&A session, chaired by Sandy Fredman, Director of the Oxford Human Rights Hub, students asked the speakers about their careers and for advice for aspiring human rights lawyers.

The event was Amal’s first return to her Oxford college, St Hugh’s, since her graduation. She expressed delight at being there and her gratitude to St Hugh’s for ‘taking a chance’ on her.

Watch the recording of the lecture on our YouTube channel.