On Friday, 14 February, The Sociological Discussion Club hosted a very special guest. Robert Amsterdam is Canadian-born, Washington-based international lawyer with an extraordinary career. He explained how he is barred from entering six countries as a result of fighting numerous high-profile human rights cases. These included representing the former Prime Minister of Thailand, campaigning against the Gulen Movement in Turkey (as detailed in Amsterdam’s book, Empire of Deceit), and defending Georges Tadonki, who exposed a UN cover-up of a cholera epidemic.
Amsterdam’s talk combined his immense legal expertise with riveting descriptions of courtroom procedures and the great personal risk he frequently faced, such as continuing negotiations despite a bomb threat. He also recalled receiving a midnight knock on the hotel door from Russian security agents, about to arrest him; in that particular situation, a phone call to a powerful contact saved him. The talk was very well attended and, needless to say, the audience was utterly captivated. Many of the students presents were already set on a career in the law, but there can be little doubt that it will have inspired many more.