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Amal Clooney née Alamuddin & the Parthenon Marbles

In the coverage of the visit to Greece by a team of Lawyers [1], much has been made of the presence of one particular individual on the team. This person is of course Amal Clooney, previously known as Amal Alamudddin. While the amount of additional publicity she created for the issue is amazing, the interpretation of her presence and the level of the questions asked [2] by many of the newspapers is somewhat lacking.

Some stories claim that she is there to rescue the Marbles for Greece (with the implication that it would be done singlehandedly). Other stories take the opposite line & claim that she is only there because of her celebrity status. This claim is a blatant untruth based on nothing more than spurious conjecture, as she was in fact involved with research into this case since well before she became associated with George Clooney.

Still other papers criticise her (& often her husband too) for having opinions – as though when one becomes famous their opinions cease to have any basis. Unsurprisingly to many, these are the same papers that spend the rest of their time focusing on celebrities, speculating on their every move & reflecting on their choice of outfit every time they leave the house.

Amal Alamuddin & Geoffrey Robertson [3]

Amal Alamuddin & Geoffrey Robertson

Independent [4]

Amal Alamuddin calls for the return of the Elgin Marbles from Britain: ‘Injustice has persisted for too long’
The human rights barrister said Greece has ‘just cause’ to wish for the repatriation of the artifacts
Wednesday 15 October 2014

Amal Alamuddin – who recently changed her name to Amal Clooney following her marriage – today spoke of the “injustice” that the Elgin Marbles have not yet been returned from Britain to Greece.

The human rights barrister has been enlisted to advise the Greek government on the issue.

The collection of sculptures, inscriptions and architectural features were acquired by Lord Elgin in 1816, while Athens was under the control of the Ottoman Empire. They are currently on display at the British Museum, despite Greece’s repeated request to have them returned.

Talking at a press conference in Athens, she said that the Greek government “has just cause” to call for the repatriation of the artifacts and “it’s time for the British Museum to recognise that”, The Telegraph reports.

She added that “the injustice has persisted for too long”.

Greece displays 40 percent of the marbles in the Acropolis Museum, while the majority remain at the British Museum.

Clooney – who married George Clooney in Venice last month – suggested that she had no sway over his decision to support the return of the friezes.

“I hope that even at this very early stage of the marriage,” she said, “I’m wise enough to know that it’s up to my husband to decide which causes he chooses to support.”

The actor said in February that to repatriate the collection was the “right thing to do”.

Guardian [5]

Parthenon marbles meet Hollywood as Amal Alamuddin Clooney advises Greece
Just months after George Clooney supported Greece’s claim to monuments, his wife enters west’s longest cultural row
Helena Smith in Athens
Monday 13 October 2014 19.30 BST

The human rights barrister Amal Alamuddin Clooney flew into Athens on Monday amid hopes that, as she begins advising the government on its bid to reclaim the Parthenon marbles, it will be with the full force of Hollywood behind her.

The Anglo-Lebanese lawyer wades into the west’s longest running cultural row at noon on Tuesday when she meets the Greek culture minister, Kostas Tasoulas, for talks in his sixth-floor office.

There, with the two QCs Geoffrey Robertson and Norman Palmer, both experts in cultural restitution, she will discuss how Greece can best pursue its claim to win back the treasures, widely seen as the high point of classical art, from the British Museum.

In the ever-bitter battle of nerves that the heritage dispute has become, the meeting, for many, is already a coup.

“We need all the friends we can get,” Tasoulas, a British-trained lawyer himself, told the Guardian ahead of the talks.

“After all, this is a unique monument of universal significance that can only be understood and admired if it is complete. Mutilated it cannot tell the whole story,” he said of the carvings that were carted off to Britain more than 200 years ago after Thomas Bruce, the seventh Earl of Elgin, removed them from the frieze that once adorned the Parthenon.

For Greeks, the 36-year-old Alamuddin is a valuable advocate of the argument that Phidias’s masterpieces would be better off under the Attic skies, in the place where they were originally carved in the fifth century BC. Although the most junior of the London-based lawyers who will sit around the long table assigned for such meetings in the minister’s office, she brings glamour that the Greek government could only have dreamed of when her firm, Doughty Chambers, first took up the case in 2011.

This week’s talks, both with Tasoulas and prime minister Antonis Samaras on Wednesday, were meant to have taken place in early September but were postponed when it was unexpectedly announced that Alamuddin and George Clooney, the world’s most sought after bachelor, were to be married.

Barely three weeks after the couple exchanged vows in Venice, Greek officials are determined not to waste the opportunity. “We will of course be discussing all our legal options but what we really want is to keep the issue alive,” one well-placed policy maker confided. “There would be no better way of doing that than getting Hollywood involved and, hopefully, Clooney too.”

In many ways the American actor has already obliged. Earlier this year, as he and co-stars addressed the media to promote the film The Monuments Men – which tells the story of how a team of allied men and women helped recover priceless artworks stolen by the Nazis – Clooney took the audience by surprise when he said the sculptures belonged to Athens.

“I think you have a very good case to make about your artefacts,” he said when asked about the antiquities by a Greek reporter. “Returning them [would be] a very fair and very nice thing … the right thing to do.”

Even now, nearly 40 years after the issue of repatriation was first raised by the late actor Melina Mercouri, the Greeks still speak of a “win-win” situation where the dispute is settled amicably.

The construction of a splendid museum at the foot of the Acropolis, purpose built to house the antiquities within view of the masterpiece that epitomises the Periclean age, was meant to be a debate shifter, more eloquent than any number of legal arguments.

For decades, British officials had argued that Athens had nowhere decent enough to exhibit the monuments.

When that failed and the goalposts were perceived to have been moved again – with British Museum trustees saying exhibiting the marbles in London “allows different complementary stories to be told about them” – Greece resorted to diplomatic channels.

In July 2013, it called on Unesco, the United Nations’ cultural organisation, to intervene, urging David Cameron’s government to participate in “a mediation procedure” in a bid to resolve the row. Fifteen months later, Greek officials say they have yet to receive an answer to their request.

“All we have asked is that they talk about this, but they have not had the decency to reply,” said Elena Korka, a senior official at the culture ministry. “This is a non-binding process so at the very least the British stance would seem to show fear.”

Earlier this month, at its meeting of committee members in Paris, Unesco berated Britain for failing to respond to Greece and recommended that the two countries meet to discuss a “mutually acceptable solution”.

It is in this context that Samaras, a former culture minister, has pursued the legal route. Talks this week will focus on what court, if any, Greece could initiate a case in the future.

“In politics all over the world the word never does not exist,” said the culture minister. “We are open to everything, all forms of cooperation.”

In the past Athens has offered all manner of cultural gems in exchange for the marbles. And bolstered by successive polls that have shown the vast majority of Britons to be in favour of repatriation it has put aside the issue of ownership, instead proposing joint curatorship of the sculptures through the establishment of a branch of the British Museum in Athens.

“There are no legal grounds for the return of the marbles,” averred Harry Tzalas, a historian who first advised Melina Mercouri on the issue. “And anyway this is not the right time for Greece to start a legal procedure when the country is in such difficult straits financially and socially,” he told the Guardian. “Alamuddin and Clooney are using this row for their own public relations purposes. Our best line of defence would be to concentrate on the British public which seems to want the marbles back in Greece.”

Kathimerini (English Edition) [6]

Sunday October 12, 2014 (14:38)
How Amal Alamuddin Clooney became involved in the Parthenon Marbles case
By Marianna Kakaounaki

The arrival of three London-based lawyers in Athens on Monday on the invitation of the Greek government, has caused a stir. Journalists are scrambling to get in touch with the prime minister’s office to find out every detail of their schedule and members of the public want to know whether they will have a chance to get a peek at them. But this excitement is hardly associated with the reason why the lawyers are coming to Greece, which is to explore the legal route for the return of the Parthenon Marbles from the British Museum to Greece. It is more likely linked to the fact that the youngest of the three visiting legal experts, 36-year-old Amal Alamuddin, recently became Mrs George Clooney after marrying the Hollywood star in Venice.

Needless to say, many in Greece think that the arrival of the lawyer has something to do with an off-the-cuff comment made by Clooney while promoting the film “The Monuments Men” in February, suggesting that the return of the sculptures that once graced the ancient citadel “is probably the right thing to do.” But the truth is that Alamuddin has been involved in the issue since February 2011.

It was then that David Hill, the English-born Australian archaeologist who chairs the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles and believes that Greece must take judicial recourse, asked Norman Palmer, a lawyer specializing in cultural heritage issues, to explore Greece’s legal options. The two men had met at a conference in Athens and had kept in touch over the years, so Hill was very familiar with Palmer’s numerous successes, including the return of Aborigine remains to Australia from London’s Natural History Museum.

Palmer accepted Hill’s request and sought the help of another lawyer he had worked with on the Australian claim, Geoffrey Robertson, known for his eccentric sartorial style and the important international cases handled by his firm, one of the biggest in London.

The two prestigious British lawyers and three more associates conducted exhaustive research into British law as well as exploring at which courts Greece could make its claim, and drafted a proposal. One of the signatures on the 10-page brief is that of Alamuddin.

Hill received the brief in 2011 and immediately got on a plane to Athens. The Foreign Affairs Ministry showed some interest at first, but a few weeks later Hill got a call saying that the time was not right for such a move because of the crisis. Hill decided to take one more trip when the new government was elected in 2012 and sought a meeting with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, whom he had met in 2009 at the opening of the new Acropolis Museum. The two men had sat together for a moment and Hill shared with Samaras his thoughts for a more aggressive legal approach to the matter. Samaras was interested in what the British lawyer had to say and asked that they meet again. The meeting was delayed because of the elections but once Samaras became prime minister Hill sent the brief and the two men met again.

At that encounter the prime minister asked for a meeting with the legal team that put together the brief.

Their trip to the Greek capital had originally been planned to take place in the first half of September. Alamuddin and Clooney’s wedding pushed it to Monday.

According to the official schedule of the visit, the three lawyers will start with a tour of the Acropolis Museum and will then meet with Samaras, as well as Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos and Culture Minister Costas Tasoulas, together with other officials from the ministries of Culture and Foreign Affairs.

Independent [7]

Amal Alamuddin arrives in Greece to advise government on return of Elgin Marbles from UK
Ella Alexander
Monday 13 October 2014

Amal Alamuddin arrived in Athens today to advise the Greek government on how to repatriate the ancient Elgin Marbles statues from Britain.

The collection of sculptures, inscriptions and architectural features were acquired by Lord Elgin in 1816, while Athens was under the control of the Ottoman Empire. They are currently on display at the British Museum, despite Greece’s repeated request to have them returned.

Alamuddin – who married George Clooney in Venice last month – will meet Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and Culture Minister Konstantinos Tasoulas, as well as her boss, Geoffrey Robertson.

“Mr Robertson and Mrs Clooney were first asked to provide legal advice to the Greek government on this matter in 2011. They will be holding a series of meetings with government officials during their stay,” Doughty Street chambers said in a statement.

Alamuddin will remain in the country from today until 16 October.

Alamuddin has previously represented clients including Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and the King of Bahrain. She has also served as counsel to the United Nations on the use of drones and as UN Special Envoy Kofi Annan’s advisor on Syria.

In February, Clooney waded into the debate, arguing that the artefacts should be returned; arguing that to do so would be a “very fair and very nice thing” and “the right thing to do”.

His argument was not received well by UK chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee John Whittingdale, who suggested that the actor might not be well-informed.

“I’m a great admirer of George Clooney, but I suspect that he probably doesn’t know the history of the Elgin Marbles and the legal entitlement that Britain has to them,” he said.

Greek Reporter [8]

Amal Alamuddin as the Deus Ex Machina
by Philip Chrysopoulos
Oct 13, 2014

It seems that the spirit of ancient Greece has come to the rescue of suffering, debt-stricken, contemporary Greece. How else can one explain that soon after one of the world’s largest archaeological discoveries in Amphipolis, a group of prominent English lawyers is coming to Greece to help the Greek government recover the Parthenon marbles which the British Museum has indefinitely “borrowed.”

Until recently, 36-year-old Amal Ramzi Alamuddin was a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers, a powerful London law firm. The British-Lebanese woman was also an author and activist. As of last month though, she became internationally known as Mrs George Clooney. And as of today, let’s add that she is a philhellene too. Fresh from her honeymoon with one of the world’s most desired men, she rolled up her sleeves and came to help Greece recover the Parthenon marbles from Great Britain.

Her involvement with the case though had started back in 2011 when Australian archaeologist David Hill, head of the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles, asked cultural heritage issues lawyer Norman Palmer to explore whether Greece had grounds for legal recourse. Palmer in turn convinced Australian Geoffrey Robertson, one of the biggest names in similar international cases, to join the team and so began investigations into British law and the options Greece had. Two Greeks associated with Doughty Street Chambers seem to have played a crucial role in her decision to pursue the matter further: Award-winning cinematographer Phedon Papamichael and Andreas Michaelides, the law firm’s head of finances.

The troika of lawyers — to use a recently popular catchword — who arrive in Athens today with Alamuddin at the helm, will meet with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos and Culture Minister Kostas Tasoulas to discuss the legal procedures Greece has to follow in order to bring back the famous sculptures and re-unite them with the remaining ones in the new Acropolis Museum.

This is a splendid opportunity for Greece to follow the legal steps needed in order to regain a precious part of its rich cultural heritage. So far, only vague moves have been made to that effect. For many years, the return of the marbles was a subject of academic discussion rather than specific, decisive actions. As it is often the case with Greek politicians, they form committees, the committees convene for hours, the participants talk forever and at the end nothing gets done. Several politicians in the past have claimed that they “fought” to bring the marbles back but the only fight they gave was to publicly blurb their wishes.

It is also a great opportunity for the struggling coalition government to achieve an important national success. If Samaras manages to bring the precious marbles back, it will be one of the biggest political victories ever. And it will certainly bring some much-needed votes. That probably explains the anxiety that prevails in the government headquarters over the famous lawyer’s visit. Allegedly, there is puzzlement over what gift to offer Mrs Alamuddin-Clooney.

In ancient Greek tragedies, when the protagonist found himself at an impasse, unable to come out of a life-threatening situation, the problem was resolved by the deus ex machina. A god in some form or shape was coming from above to save the hero or heroine. Let’s hope then that Mrs Alamuddin will act as a true philhellene and play the role of the deus ex machina who will indeed help Greece restore the sculptures and its wounded pride.

Law Gazette [9]

Media lose marbles over Amal
15 October 2014
By Monidipa Fouzder

The focus is on Mrs Clooney’s dresses and wedding ring. Isn’t her day job more important?

Human rights barrister Amal Alamuddin has been making a lot of headlines. Not for her legal work, but for being ‘the one’ to capture Hollywood leading man George Clooney’s heart and officially take him off the singles’ market.

With the wedding over, one would think that marked the end of the media frenzy. But no. Alamuddin, a member of Doughty Street Chambers in London – she has advised former UN secretary general Kofi Annan on Syria and represented WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in European arrest warrant proceedings – continues to make headlines thanks to her dress sense.

(Her ‘impeccable’ wedding style ‘left onlookers breathless’, according to one US showbiz correspondent.)

And this week the barrister arrived in Greece to a camera-flash fanfare normally reserved for Hollywood stars themselves. The bizarre events overshadowed the fact she was on serious business in the country to try and secure the return of the Elgin Marbles to Athens.

The marbles – also known as the Parthenon sculptures – were obtained by Britain (via Lord Elgin) between 1801 and 1805, amid fears they would be destroyed by peasants at the Parthenon. They have been housed at the British Museum since 1816 after being bought by the UK government. Greece wants them back; the issue has generated several volumes of learned argument over the past few decades.

But the Daily Mail led with: ‘Dressed in a simple white cardigan and khaki trousers, the new Mrs Clooney was spotted chatting happily to British Airways staff,’ and commented on ‘one of the most glamorous celebrity weddings of all time’ accompanied by 26 – yes, twenty-six – images of Amal (plus a mere two of the marbles). Even the normally more austere Daily Telegraph couldn’t resist a quartet of glossy snaps of the smiling lawyer.

Alamuddin’s brain, another showbiz correspondent has said (after commenting on the barrister’s ‘gorgeous, amazing legs’), ‘speaks volumes’. Undoubtedly the media will be paying much closer attention to Alamuddin’s work now that she has become a member of ‘Hollywood royalty’.

We know this, of course, from experience thanks to one Cherie Booth QC.

While not a Hollywood wife, the barrister was thrown into the spotlight when her husband was elected prime minister in 1997. Who can forget the photo of Mrs Blair when she opened her front door the morning after Labour’s election victory, in her nightwear, to receive a bunch of flowers?

It was clearly a sign of things to come as she continued to make headlines (she still does – though most recently for leaving Matrix Chambers, the barristers chambers she helped to start 14 years ago, to focus on her legal advisory practice Omnia Strategy).

But why does the scrutiny, it seems, apply only to women of the law? When human rights lawyer Jason McCue – husband of journalist and TV presenter Mariella Frostrup – was named ‘Solicitor of the Year – Private Practice’ at the Law Society Excellence Awards in 2009, I don’t recall seeing tabloid pictures of him the following day.

The media’s fascination with Alamuddin will no doubt continue. A glance at recent headlines suggests Alamuddin is giving the Duchess of Cambridge a run for her money in the fashion stakes (and winning).

No doubt we’ll be hearing a lot more of Alamuddin, or, I should say Clooney after seeing numerous reports earlier this week that Ms Alamuddin’s name had been amended to ‘Amal Clooney’ on her profile page on Doughty Street Chambers’ website.

But let’s hear it for the men as well.

Monidipa Fouzder is Gazette staff writer and sub-editor