Prominent human rights lawyer Amal Clooney has quit her role as the UK’s envoy on media freedom in protest at the government’s intention to break international law.
Clooney, who is married to Hollywood star George Clooney, denounced Britain’s Brexit law breaking in a resignation letter to foreign secretary Dominic Raab, The Guardian has revealed.
Her letter, sent on Friday, read: “I have been dismayed to learn that the government intends to pass legislation – the internal market bill – which, if enacted, would, by the government’s own admission, ‘break international law’.
“I was also concerned to note the position taken by the government that although it is an ‘established principle of international law that a state is obliged to discharge its treaty obligations in good faith’, the UK’s ‘parliament is sovereign as a matter of domestic law and can pass legislation which is in breach of the UK’s treaty obligations’.
“Although the government has suggested that the intended violation of international law is ‘specific and limited’, it is lamentable for the UK to be speaking of its intention to violate an international treaty signed by the prime minister less than a year ago.”
Her resignation comes after Downing Street’s top legal official for Scotland, Tory peer Richard Keen, resigned on Wednesday in protest at government plans to legislate against the Withdrawal Agreement. The government’s chief lawyer, Jonathan Jones, also stepped down as ministers prepared to publish the legislation.
Clooney said she had waited for the bill to be released and examined its details before resigning. She said that after having “received no assurance that any change of position is imminent, I have no alternative but to resign from my position”.
She added: “I am disappointed to have to do so because I have always been proud of the UK’s reputation as a champion of the international legal order, and of the culture of fair play for which it is known. However, very sadly, it has now become untenable for me, as special envoy, to urge other states to respect and enforce international obligations while the UK declares that it does not intend to do so itself.”
Her letter was released through the International Bar Association in London and was supported by the independent High Level Panel of Legal Experts on Media Freedom.
David Neuberger, the chair of that panel and former president of the UK supreme court, commented: “I agree with what Ms Clooney says in her letter of 18 September to the foreign secretary.
“I support her principled response to the shameful attitude of the UK government to its international treaty obligations in the internal market bill and in ministerial announcements that it is prepared to break international law.”
Lord Neuberger said Clooney’s role as an envoy was distinct from her position as deputy chair of the panel, which she would continue to hold.