Human rights defenders, journalists, celebrities, and leaders from the worlds of technology, law, and fashion gathered in New York on September 29 to honor the inaugural recipients of the Clooney Foundation for Justice’s Albie Awards.
George and Amal Clooney, Co-Founders of The Clooney Foundation for Justice and Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation, hosted the first-ever ‘Albie Awards’ at the New York Public Library on Thursday, September 29, 2022.
All over the world, journalists and defenders of democracy are detained, prosecuted, and jailed. Women and girls, LGBTQ+ people, and minorities are subject to unfair laws and targeted for abuse. Meanwhile, the perpetrators walk free. George and Amal Clooney created the Clooney Foundation for Justice (CFJ) to change this reality.
“We believe that justice must be waged – it doesn’t just happen. So when journalists are locked up just for doing their job, we try to get them out of prison. When young girls are denied the right to study, work, or marry when they want, we help them fight for their rights through the courts. When minorities are targeted for genocide, we help trigger trials against the perpetrators,” said George and Amal Clooney.
“The Albie Awards add a new dimension to our work at CFJ: they are a way to shine a protective light on the many courageous individuals who, at great personal risk, have devoted their lives to justice.”
The Albie awards, named after Justice Albie Sachs, revered for his heroic commitment to ending apartheid in South Africa, honored courageous defenders of justice who are at great risk for what they do. Justice Sachs was presented his lifetime achievement award by former First Lady, Michelle Obama.
“Albie taught us the power of those three little letters – why. He used them to help transform his own country and in doing so, he challenged us to use them to transform our own. That’s what we honor tonight—not just a single man’s legacy of progress but the possibility of progress that’s yet to be written, possibility that lies inside all of us,” said Michelle Obama when presenting Justice Sachs with his award.
“The Albie Awards, named in my honor could have been ‘the Nelson’ or ‘the Oliver’ or ‘the Bram’ or ‘the Giffiths’ or ‘the Victoria’, because we were all part of a justice movement. The fight against apartheid was not just about brave individual lawyers,” said Justice Albie Sachs when receiving his award.
Mrs. Obama, Meryl Streep, Oscar Isaac, Dua Lipa, John Oliver, Julia Roberts, and Nadia Murad, were on-hand to present awards throughout the evening. Bruce Springsteen and Patti Scialfa performed ‘Promised Land’ and Aloe Blacc performed alongside Sing Harlem. Other notable guests included: Drew Barrymore, Tina Brown, Gemma Chan, Zoey Deutch, Anthony Edwards, Ethan Hawke, Juliana Margulies, Richard Kind, John Krasinski, Tracee Ellis Ross, Charlotte Tilbury, Roberta Armani, Donatella Versace, Mare Winningham, Gayle King and Alfre Woodard.
The evening honored the following:
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT IN PURSUIT OF JUSTICE AWARD – Justice Albie Sachs
For his seminal role in the anti-apartheid movement, his service in helping to write the Constitution of South Africa, and his fifteen years on the country’s Constitutional Court at the appointment of Nelson Mandela. This award was presented by the Former First Lady Michelle Obama.
JUSTICE FOR JOURNALISTS AWARD – Maria Ressa
For her reporting exposing government corruption and human rights violations in the Philippines. Ressa, a 2021 Nobel Peace Prize winner and a client of Amal Clooney, currently faces a lifetime behind bars for her journalism. This award was presented by Meryl Streep.
JUSTICE FOR SURVIVORS AWARD – iACT
For its work alongside survivors of genocide and other mass atrocities. iACT worked with the Clooney Foundation for Justice to interview survivors from Darfur, Sudan, who have been trapped in refugee camps in Chad for over a decade. Using this evidence, Amal Clooney represented over 100 survivors in a trial of a militia leader at the International Criminal Court. In 2021, iAct’s founders, Gabriel Stauring and Katie-Jay Scott passed away in a tragic accident in 2021. This award was presented by Dua Lipa and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Nadia Murad.
JUSTICE FOR DEMOCRACY DEFENDERS AWARD – Viasna
For fearlessly and professionally documenting human rights abuses and defending freedom in Belarus. The group has paid a high price for their work: six Viasna members have been detained on trumped-up charges, both of the organization’s leaders are in jail, and more than half of the team has been forced to flee the country. Alina Stefanovic will accept the award on behalf of her husband Valiantsin (pronounced Valentin), the Deputy Chairman of the group who is currently in prison in Belarus. Alina and Valiantsin Stefanovic have three children. Alina currently lives in the country of Georgia. This award was presented by Oscar Isaac.
JUSTICE FOR WOMEN AWARD – Dr. Josephine Kulea for the Samburu Girls Foundation
For Samburu’s work in Kenya to rescue girls from child marriage and other harms. In the decade since Samburu was founded, over 1,500 girls have been rescued and 491 are currently being sponsored in schools around the country. This award was presented by Julia Roberts.
Our major partners include Charlotte Tilbury Beauty, Microsoft and Giorgio Armani, among many others.
About The Clooney Foundation for Justice
CFJ’s mission is waging justice to create a world where human rights are protected and no one is above the law. We operate in over 40 countries, providing free legal support to victims of human rights abuses. Our aim is to protect those who are being persecuted and ensure their perpetrators are brought to justice, with a focus on protecting women, journalists, defenders of democracy and minorities.