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Opinion

Amal Clooney, Veronica Pedrosa join battle against Rohingya genocide

FROM A DISTANCE - Carmen N. Pedrosa - The Philippine Star

With human rights lawyer Amal Clooney’s announcement that she would represent the two Reuters journalists on trial in Myanmar for reporting the massacre of the Rohingya people in western Rakhine state, it is time to tell a story.

The accused Wa Lone, 31, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 27, were arrested last December, and charged under the Official Secrets Act, which could see them jailed up to 14 years.

“Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo are being prosecuted simply because they reported the news. I have reviewed the case file, and it is clear beyond doubt that the two journalists are innocent and should be released immediately,” Amal Clooney said in a statement released by her office. 

At the time of her post wedding party in Danesfield near Marlow, very few knew anything about the Rohingya people. My daughter, Veronica Pedrosa formerly of CNN, BBC and Al Jazeera was probably among the few who knew what was happening to these refugees some of whom had lost their lives and homes in Myanmar’s effort “to get rid of them.”

The Rohingya people were caught in the crossfire between the making of the non- military Myanmar government and the many ethnic groups that surround it. They were targeted among the rest to be removed from Myanmar when it decided to heed American promptings to remove the military government.

The post wedding party given by Amal’s parents for friends who were not able to go to the wedding in Venice was held in the posh Danesfield and Spa  in Marlow, not far from the Alamuddin house. So it was far removed from the Rohingya suffering as they were driven out of Myanmar.

Veronica was one of the few journalists who knew and she was working to get the world to know of it. Amal is Muslim and so are the Rohingyans. Did she know what was happening to them?

Danesfield Hotel and Spa is a tropical fairytale in a 1001 nights ambiance, with  over-sized trees made with woven crystal mesh covered in Swarovski crystals, and porcelain parrots.

At the wedding Veronica and I sat with ambassadors and their wives to the Middle East at a table close to the bride and bridegroom’s table. Veronica was talking to the ambassadors about current events but in a while she was gone. She was small talking but what was in her mind was how to get the message on the Rohingyan’s genocide to George and Amal. She left our table and walked to talk to George. Being the gentleman that he is he immediately greeted her with a kiss on both cheeks as she pleaded to please help the Rohingyans. Wow, I thought and apologized to the ambassadors for her boldness. I did not need to. The ambassadors were all in praise for raising her up with such boldness. Never mind the kiss from George Clooney.

She got her message through and then calmly returned to our table, smiling triumphantly. Use your popularity to tell the world about them.

Myanmar’s ambassador to the United Nations, Hau Douter Suan, said the Reuter’s journalists were accused of “illegally possessing confidential government documents.”

More than 600,000 Rohingyans have been forced to flee to neighboring Bangladesh after the military launched a brutal crackdown in the wake of a series of attacks on army camps in late August.

Swaths of Rohingya villages have been burned down, and hundreds of women have been raped and thousands of innocent civilians killed in the “clearance operation” launched by the military. (Al Jazeera and other sources)

This was far removed from the post-wedding party of Amal and George Clooney. Today Veronica coordinates publicity for five women Nobel laureates on Rohingyans.

Danesfield was the place to be. It was a simple invitation sent by email, crowded by the dozens of emails I have received from Baria for over 30 years of friendship.

Unfortunately with emailed invitations, you don’t get the feel of the linen paper on which it was written. The invitation asked us to celebrate  the marriage of Amal Alamuddin and George Clooney on the 25th of October 2014. That was almost four years ago.

Pictures of Danesfield House do not show the elegance of the luxury house.

Visitors who come here are refreshed by the silence and beauty of the surroundings of acres and acres of Italian gardens and rolling hills with Thames in the background.

It was the perfect venue for a reception that combined the dignity of English aristocracy and Arabian lavish luxury to make for a spectacular reception for what was after all a Western-Middle East union.

Amal was in Manila last year. She is the daughter of my long time friend foreign Editor Baria Alamuddin whom I met in London when I lived there in exile.

She interviewed me on television about the Edsa revolution and we became friends ever since, often traveling between the Middle East and Southeast Asia and vice versa to keep a life-long friendship.

Amal told me about her work as a lawyer. Among them were Cambodia vs Thailand, a request for interpretation of the Judgment of 15 June 1962 in the case concerning the Temple of Preah vihear. She also represented Cambodia in inter-state territorial claim (International Court of Justice, The Hague), Prosecutor vs Senussi and Gaddafi. Representing Abdallah Al Senussi, former Libyan intelligence chief, in case of alleged crimes against humanity (International Criminal Court, The Hague), Tymoshenko vs Ukraine, representing Yulia Tymoshenko, former Ukrainian Prime Minister, in human rights claim (European Court of Human Rights, Strasbourg), Sweden vs Assange, representing Julian Assange, head of Wikileaks, in extradition proceedings (City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court, London) and United Nations Special Envoy Kofi Annan’s advisor on Syria, and previously offered counsel into the UN’s use of drones so on and so on.

By the time Amal was returning to London she committed to help former President Arroyo by advising her on her rights under international law. This was not about power politics but about human rights and every individual was entitled to it, she said.

Even with such high profile clients it was the announcement of her engagement to George Clooney that made big news. I emailed her and said I would write an article on “Hollywood meets Human Rights.” Whatever human rights case Amal will now handle would have the built-in publicity of being married to the Hollywood actor.

He had once worked to raise awareness about the displacement of millions in Darfur. How many know he was once arrested when he joined a protest in Sudan. This is a lucky break for the Rohingyans.

AMAL CLOONEY

ROHINGYA GENOCIDE

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