TIME China

Yushu: A Tibetan Town Rebuilt in Beijing’s Image

A Tiben woman teaches her son to ride a
AFP/Getty Images A Tiben woman teaches her son to ride a bike beside their new house in Yushu, northwest China's Qinghai province on Nov. 13, 2011

After a massive earthquake destroyed 90% of Yushu's buildings and claimed more than 2,000 lives, the price of recovery has been sacrificing identity

The monk leans forward and flips through the pictures. They were taken in the autumn of 2009, before the earth shook and the city fell, when we met at his monastery on an ordinary October day. Former students. Old classrooms. A friend that moved away. He lingers on a close-up of his face, as it was that day, sunlit and smiling. He shakes his head in disbelief. “Do I look so different?”

Everything does. It’s now been five years since a 7.1-magnitude earthquake hit this county — known as Yushu in Chinese and Jyekundo in Tibetan — high on the Qinghai plateau. The county seat was then a small, Tibetan city, a place of dusty markets, monasteries, and low-slung courtyard homes. The tremor toppled almost every structure and trapped thousands in the wreckage. When the valley stopped shaking, the monk and his students emerged from their still-standing school to dig, barehanded, for what remained.

Owing to distance, bad roads and altitude, it took days for rescue workers to make it to the town. But when they did, they arrived in force. Convoys of green army trucks rolled south from the provincial capital, Xining, bearing tents and blankets, cement and soldiers. Before local and foreign press, the central government promised to rebuild the city — and they did, though it is difficult, at times, to recognize the city that they built.

Beijing has poured more than $7 billion into transforming this county. Visitors no longer arrive exhausted from a 17-hour ordeal on the overnight bus. There is an airport and miles of fresh-paved roads. The main street has a brand new school with a spacious, spotless playground. And every family was given enough money to build a new, 80 sq m home.

There are also, at every turn, reminders of this. There are signs thanking the People’s Liberation Army, state-owned enterprises, and Communist Party officials. “Gratitude. Self-strengthening. Innovation. Harmony,” reads one banner. “Develop activities to promote national unity,” reads another. On the road into town, Xi Jinping, Chairman of the Communist Party and President of the People’s Republic, waves at motorists from a massive red billboard: “Unite all Chinese. Realize the China Dream.”

The ruling party’s dream for this region is, and has always been, at odds with what many ethnic Tibetans want. This is the edge of Chinese empire, a contested space where everything has two names and two histories. What Tibetans call colonization, the ruling CCP calls “serf liberation.” Even as monks burn themselves alive to protest Chinese rule, state media trumpet campaigns to improve Tibetan livelihoods through road building and water treatment.

In this sense, the story of Yushu/Jyekundo feels like the story of contemporary Tibet told in fast-forward. The earthquake’s destruction sped the influx of non-Tibetans to the once isolated town. These CCP-backed soldiers, officials and fortune seekers brought money and resources — first shovels and water, and then scaffolding and cranes. But the help was not offered without condition and has resulted in heightened state control.

Take housing. With almost all the city destroyed, the Party vowed to help every family build a new home. Generous. But they did so according to their own logic, and their own plans. Over the last five years, local residents have taken to the streets to protest what they call widespread land confiscation. After losing their homes in the quake, they said, they were evicted to make way for the new, grand city plan.

There are questions, too, about whether this construction boom benefits Tibetans. The locals had little experience in airport building, highway paving or the rapid construction of imposing government offices. The government and state-owned enterprises are experts. In the past, visitors stayed at family-owned inns. Today, there is Gesar Palace, “a boutique five star hotel” run, according to the brochure, by the Hong Kong Evergreen Hotel Group. It has “18 private Chinese dining rooms,” 13 Karaoke machines, and very few guests.

For all the talk of unity, for the shiny new buildings and smooth roads, the gap between China’s avowedly atheist government and ordinary Tibetans seems as wide as ever. You can see it in the monk’s face. The trauma of the earthquake, the influx of outsiders, and the wholesale reimagining of the town where he’s lived for 26 years have aged him, as he knows well. Though he has just entered middle age he is walking more slowly, and talking more cautiously, than he did before.

He asked that I not use his name and I will not post his pictures. This is a sensitive time for his school. The trouble started when he offered free religious education to local students on winter break. Five hundred showed up, spooking local authorities taught to see crowds of Tibetans as a threat. He spent seven days in jail, but plans to keep teaching.

He continues to live as he always has, frugally, in monk’s robes. Asked about the future, of the city and his school, he seems less concerned with matters of politics than questions of faith. The person he loves more than any other, the Dalai Lama, recently conceded that he may be the last to fill the role, a sentiment that many here are still struggling to understand. Looking down at his rebuilt city, the monk ponders somberly, “My only wish is that he’s reborn someplace free.”

—with reporting by Gu Yongqiang

TIME Thailand

The Thai Junta Has Replaced Martial Law With an Equally Draconian Security Order

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha gets in his car after the merit-making ceremony on the occasion of Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn's birthday at Sanam Luang in Bangkok
Damir Sagolj—Reuters Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha gets in his car after the merit-making ceremony on the occasion of Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn's birthday at Sanam Luang in Bangkok on April 2, 2015

The Land of Smiles appears to be sinking further into dictatorship

Martial law has been lifted in Thailand, but replaced with a sweeping new security decree that grants virtually identical powers to the junta.

On Wednesday, King Bhumibol Adulyadej gave his much-expected rubber stamp to General Prayuth Chan-ocha’s decision to invoke Article 44 of the nation’s interim constitution, by which “acts deemed harmful to national peace and stability” may be curbed.

Human Rights Watch’s Asia director Brad Adams decried the Southeast Asian nation’s “deepening descent into dictatorship” since the May 22 coup d’état.

“Thailand’s friends abroad should not be fooled by this obvious sleight of hand by the junta leader to replace martial law with a constitutional provision that effectively provides unlimited and unaccountable powers,” he said in a statement.

The new order grants powers to the military to arrest anyone for suspected crimes against Thailand’s powerful royal family, as well as those who are deemed to be jeopardizing national stability or violating the orders of the junta. The military has also been granted powers to seize assets, censor the media, and detain suspects for up to seven days without charge.

Anyone found guilty of flouting the order faces a year imprisonment.

Since seizing power, the military has also used — under the guise of protecting the royal family — the nation’s draconian lèse majesté law to target critics and political opponents.

On Tuesday, businessman Theinsutham Suthijittaseranee, 58, was jailed for 25 years for allegedly posting defamatory comments on Facebook concerning the monarchy.

“Thailand’s return to democracy remains uncertain as the junta retains tight grip amid the unending climate of fear,” says Verapat Pariyawong, a Harvard-trained Thai lawyer and visiting scholar at the University of London. “Martial law may be lifted today, but Thailand remains deeply sunk in unchecked military rule.”

TIME China

Five Feminists Remain Jailed in China for Activities the Government Supports

India China Activists Detained
Altaf Qadri—AP Indian women's rights activists wearing masks of five women's rights activists formally detained in China after Women's Day crackdown, hold placards with their names, to express their solidarity and demand their immediate release, in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The line between dissidence and social activism grows ever murkier

It was supposed to be a celebration. This year marks two decades since the world came together in Beijing for the Fourth World Conference on Women. Participants in that event — including keynote speaker Hillary Clinton — set an ambitious global blueprint for gender equality and women’s rights. It was a landmark moment for the women’s movement, and a point of pride for China as it stepped, gingerly, toward post-Mao reforms.

But as meetings to mark the “Beijing+20” anniversary close Friday in New York, things are looking bleak. In the run up to International Women’s Day and the Beijing+20-themed conclave, China detained 10 women for planning activities to celebrate the occasion. Five of those women — Wu Rongrong, Wei Tingting, Wang Man, Zheng Churan and Li Tingting — are still in detention. Their lawyers worry they will be charged with “picking quarrels and creating a disturbance,” an Orwellian turn of phrase used to jail government critics.

The ruling Communist Party has long taken aggressive measures to silence opposition voices, censoring the Internet, banning books, and jailing dissidents. For much of the past decade, though, the line between “dissident” and “critical voice” — that is between prison and the freedom to live your life — was, with exceptions, relatively clear: Do not openly oppose one-party rule. Avoid the “three T’s” (Tibet, Taiwan and Tiananmen). Don’t take to the street.

However, since coming to power in 2012, Xi Jinping’s regime has taken an even harder line, jailing those who speak out on matters not related to party control or the three T’s. (See, for example, the case of Professor Ilham Tohti, or jailed lawyer Xu Zhiyong.) There are new no-go areas, including the politics of Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, and calls for government transparency that do not originate from the government itself. Until this month, if you kept a low profile and did not plan protests, you could speak publicly on issues like gender equality and LGBT rights.

Now, advocates fear that too has changed. The women arrested in Beijing this month were not advocating for the overthrow of the Communist Party. In fact, they were, separately, and in their respective cities, simply planning to distribute pamphlets and raise awareness about issues the Chinese government supports: gender equality and combatting sexual harassment. These activists did not organize political rallies, but rather used performance art to challenge societal views.

Their arrest in coordinated raids ahead of International Women’s Day “suggests an escalation of Chinese government paranoia,” says Leta Hong Fincher, author of Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China. “I don’t see how they would have posed any threat to the government in any way — and they did not even carry out the activities. Even under Chinese law, I do not see what they are guilty of.”

That has other feminists worried. The five women are active on a variety of issues, including stopping sexual violence, ending street harassment and promoting gender equality and LGBT rights. Their detentions sent a broad cross section of people, including friends, acquaintances and allies, into hiding, terrified that the merest trifle might now see them caged.

That is not to say people are silent. Their ongoing detention has generated an unusual amount of public support from social groups, students and academics in China, as well as expressions of solidarity from nearly every corner of the earth, and spawned a social-media campaign to #FreeTheFive. Some feminists have floated the idea of a boycott of Beijing+20 events, though there are no firm plans as yet. From the sidelines of the meeting in New York City, Charlotte Bunch, a professor of women’s and gender studies at Rutgers University, filmed herself reading a statement in support of the jailed women. “We expect more from China,” she says. “The world is watching and waiting for an end to this injustice.”

Waiting, indeed. Though U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power tweeted her support for the activists, foreign governments and U.N. agencies are, for the most part, staying quiet. Perhaps they don’t want to politicize the matter in the off chance they could still be released. Or perhaps, 20 years after the historic Beijing conference on women, the world no longer expects more.

TIME Opinion

Politics Aside, the Data on Women Collected by the Clinton Foundation Is Worth a Look

Melinda Gates, Clinton Foundation Release Report On Status Of Women And Girls
Spencer Platt—Getty Images Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (right) joins Gates Foundation Co-Chair Melinda Gates and Clinton Foundation Vice Chair Chelsea Clinton for the official release of the No Ceilings Full Participation Report (Spencer Platt--Getty Images)

The vast amount of data collected by the Clinton Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation says women have taken two steps forward, one step back

The hubbub surrounding Hillary Clinton’s presumptive presidential run and the controversy over her use of a private email account while Secretary of State threaten to overshadow No Ceilings: Full Participation Project, a new report on women’s rights released on Monday by the Clinton Foundation in partnership with the Gates Foundation. That’s a shame, because while the information isn’t completely groundbreaking, it’s still one of the most comprehensive looks at the state of gender equality around the world in 2015, with over a million data points on women’s advancement across dozens of areas.

Here’s the takeaway: since the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action (where Hillary Clinton famously said, “Women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights), women have taken two steps forward, one step back. There have been major gains in education and women’s health, but less so in safety, economic opportunity, and leadership. “Progress is possible, and the data provides us a roadmap for the unfinished business that remains,” said Clinton when she took the stage in New York City on Monday. “We’re not there yet.”

In health, there’s been a lot of good news when it comes to maternal mortality and contraceptive use. The rate of women who die in childbirth has plummeted more than 40% in 76 countries, and by more than 60% in South Asia, and the rate of adolescent birth has dropped by a third since 1995. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the rate of contraceptive use has doubled, from 11% to 23%.

But, as Chelsea Clinton said at the No Ceilings event, “we cannot mistake progress for success.” Worldwide, there are still 220 million women who don’t have access to modern family planning– a number that is virtually unchanged since 1995. And according to the WHO, 800 women a day still die from preventable pregnancy complications.

In education, too, there have been major steps forward. Overall female literacy rates reached 80% in 2012, and the global gender gap for primary education has closed everywhere except Sub Saharan Africa– and even there, the primary education rates have largely improved, to 93 girls for every 100 boys. But even if they’re getting a primary education, too few girls are making the leap to secondary school. In South Asia, fewer than half of girls are in secondary school– in Sub-Saharan Africa, it’s fewer than one in three.

And despite the gains in women’s health and education since 1995, there are major areas where far too little has changed in 20 years. When it comes to women’s safety, we’ve barely moved the needle. 1 in 3 women worldwide have experienced physical or sexual violence, mostly at the hands of a partner. In a survey of four African countries, 25% of first sex for girls was unwanted. And in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 62% of women and 48% of men think a man is entitled to sex even if a woman refuses.

Financially, women also remain at a stubborn disadvantage. Only about 55% of women worldwide work for pay, compared to 82% of men. That’s not just bad for women– it’s bad for economies. The GDP of the USA would rise by 5% of women were equally represented. In Egypt, women’s participation would boost the GDP by an whopping 34%.

The United States is also one of only nine countries in the world that does not have laws providing paid maternity leave–the others are the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Suriname, and Tonga. On the bright side, 75% of other developed countries now provide up to 14 weeks of paid maternal leave. (The U.S. is the only developed country that provides none.)

In leadership roles, women are still vastly underrepresented. Global legislatures remain only 22% female, and the number of countries led by women has risen from 12 in 1995 to only 18 in 2015. Still, there are glimmers of hope: in Rwanda, Bolivia, and Andorra, around 50% of the lower parliamentary seats are held by women.

So even if you’re skeptical of Hillary’s politics, the data from the project is still worth a look. You can check it out more in depth here.

 

TIME feminism

International Women’s Day Shows Awareness Is Not Enough

Here are four areas where women have made progress since 1995

Correction appended, March 9

Finally, feminism is growing some teeth. This year, International Women’s Day is themed “Make It Happen,” a much-needed call to get cracking on some of the biggest issues for women around the world. It’s a message echoed by Executive Director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, who recently posted a video message urging countries to “step it up” for gender equality, so that the world will be 50/50 by 2030. In 2015, “awareness” is out — action is in.

And it’s about time. The “awareness”-based solutions for problems facing women generate a lot of Twitter activity, but little genuine change. The last year was full of online discussion of feminist issues, from #yesallwomen to #rapecultureiswhen to #whyistayed, which help inform the public and give voice to survivors. But raising awareness is only the first step — in order to create an equal world for women, we need real policy change, and lots of it. Legislative changes won’t be popular with everyone, not even with all women. But the international community is finally starting to see that awareness is simply not enough.

We will learn more about some of the tangible goals for the next few decades of women’s advancement later this week, at the 59th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women, which is celebrating 20 years since the famous Beijing Platform for Action. If you’re not up on your UN history, that was where Hillary Clinton famously said “women’s rights are human rights, and human rights are women’s rights” in 1995.

Here’s a brief look at some of the big improvements that have been made for women since Beijing. There are still major obstacles for women: violence against women is still a pandemic, too few women are in leadership roles and most workplaces don’t make enough accommodations for working mothers, especially in the United States. But there have been some brief glimmers of progress, evidence that when we commit to global action for women, we actually can move the needle toward greater gender equality. Here are some stats that will make your day (according to UN Women website):

1) Education: Since 1995, we’ve reached a point where girls and boys worldwide are enrolling in primary school at almost equal rates. That is a huge step forward. The next step is secondary school, where the gender gap widens again.

2) Maternal Mortality: In the last 25 years, maternal mortality has dropped by 45%. But there’s still more work to do — 800 women a day die from basic pregnancy complications, mostly in the developing world.

3) Water access: Water is an important issue for women, since in many developing countries girls are responsible for fetching water, a task so time-consuming and difficult that it can keep them out of school or put them in danger of being attacked. Between 1990 and 2010, 2 billion people gained access to clean drinking water, relieving the burden of water-fetching from girls. Still, in Sub-Saharan Africa, women spend 16 million hours per day getting water.

4) Leadership: Since 1995, the number of women serving in legislatures has nearly doubled — but that still only translates to 22% of politicians worldwide.

There’s still a lot of work to do, especially when it comes to getting women into leadership roles and stopping violence against women. But the advances in health and education since 1995 have been striking. It means we should take heart — even if there’s a lot more work to do, progress is possible. It’s already happened, and we can make it happen again.

Correction: The original version of this story story misstated the implications of a statistic regarding maternal mortality. It has dropped 45% in the last 25 years.

TIME LGBT

The U.S. Has Appointed Its First Ever Special Envoy for LGBT Rights

The former U.S. consul general in the Netherlands has been named in the role

The U.S. appointed its first-ever special envoy on Monday to defend and promote the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

The State Department named Randy Berry, a gay senior diplomat who previously served as U.S. consul general in the Netherlands, to the role, reports Reuters.

In his new role, Berry will work to reduce violence and discrimination against LGBT people around the world, including those in some 75 countries where homosexuality and same-sex relationships are criminalized.

“Defending and promoting the human rights of LGBT persons is at the core of our commitment to advancing human rights globally — the heart and conscience of our diplomacy,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement.

[Reuters]

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: February 6

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. To salvage democracy in Afghanistan, leaders must make the next election really work.

By Tabish Forugh in Foreign Policy

2. In a U.S. first, New Orleans finds homes for all its homeless veterans.

By Noelle Swan in the Christian Science Monitor

3. As rich nations plan the next decade’s agenda for global development, they must bring human rights and accountability to the fore.

By the United Nations News Centre

4. Science and the media need each other. They just don’t know it yet.

By Louise Lief in the Wilson Quarterly

5. This simple Lego contraption allows scientists to safely handle insects.

By Emily Conover in Science

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME celebrity

The World’s Obsession With Amal Isn’t About Her Accomplishments

Lawyer Amal Alamuddin Clooney attends the hearing in the case Perincek vs Switzerland, at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, Jan. 28,2015.
Sandro Weltin/Council of Europe/EPA Lawyer Amal Alamuddin Clooney attends the hearing in the case Perincek vs Switzerland, at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, Jan. 28, 2015.

Charlotte Alter covers lifestyle, crime, and breaking news for TIME in New York City. Her writing has also appeared in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

They're real, but the gushing isn't

Amal Clooney is at it again— doing something celebrities don’t usually do, and looking like a movie star while doing it.

This time, she’s arguing in the European Court of Human Rights against a Turkish politician who denied the existence of an Armenian genocide 100 years ago in which more than 1.5 million people were brutally murdered. That’s, like, sooo impressive… but who is she wearing?

When a reporter from The Telegraph asked her, she cheekily replied “Ede and Ravenscroft,” the legal robes maker that has been selling drab back judge costumes since 1689, the year Benjamin Franklin’s parents met.

Once she did that, the focus shifted from the history of the Armenian genocide to Amal’s sense of humor and fashion choices. The global reaction to her comments was proof that jig is up: it’s time to stop pretending you care about what Amal Clooney is doing, when you really just care about how she looks while doing it.

The public obsession with Amal Clooney has been outwardly focused on her professional accomplishments, and with good reason. She’s represented high-profile clients like Julian Assange and former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, fought for the Elgin Marbles to be returned to Greece, and worked to free three Al-Jazeera journalists imprisoned in Egypt. She’s done more in the last ten years than many lawyers do over their entire career.

It sounds great, and it is. But the gushing adoration in the media about her work is false appreciation that crumples under scrutiny. How many other human rights lawyers inspire anything close to Amal-mania? Look at Samira al-Nuaimy, the Iraqi human rights lawyer who was executed by ISIS last year. If the tabloid-buying American public so obsessed with human rights, why wasn’t she on the cover of InTouch?

MORE Lawyer Who Led Challenge of Uganda’s Anti-Gay Law: ‘Long, Long Way to Go’

Let’s face it: no matter how real Amal’s accomplishments are, the breathless celebration of her legal triumphs is just a thinly veiled infatuation with how she looks.

When placed in the glare of celebrity, Clooney’s binders of legal documents and folders of case material become accessories to her shiny hair and perfect manicure, instead of the other way around. What’s worse, there’s something grotesque about using serious work on behalf of genocide victims as a pretense for a fixation on her looks, her clothes, and her marriage to one of the world’s most eligible actors.

Amal’s beauty is the unspoken end of every sentence about her legal career, the sub-head to every headline about her human rights work. Even if the coverage is ostensibly focused on Turkish politics, or the Elgin marbles, or sexual violence in conflict zones, the substance get inevitably lost in the subliminal hum over what Amal’s wearing, how Amal’s hair looks, and the fact that Amal is married to George Clooney. It even happens when there’s nothing to report—the Armenian genocide case was overshadowed by Amal’s non-outfit (she was wearing essentially the same thing as all the other lawyers in the room).

It’s also a weird over-correction to the common sexist problem of focusing on women’s looks over their careers. Instead of focusing on the looks of an accomplished woman (like Kirsten Gillibrand), the media is loudly proclaiming how not-sexist they are by obsessively trumpeting Amal’s professional accomplishments, then mentioning her beauty as a super-conspicuous after-thought.

But discussing Amal Clooney’s human rights work in the same tone as Kim Kardashian’s workouts or Jennifer Lawrence’s pizza cravings isn’t just awkward— it’s bizarre. Imagine if other human rights activists were treated the same way. Next it’ll be “Watch Ban Ki-Moon Go to the Gym Without Makeup” or “Malala’s Celebrity Crush: REVEALED!”

MORE Malala Condemns the Killing of School Children in Peshawar

Some celebrities use their existing fame to shine a light on problems in the world, like Amal’s husband’s best friend’s wife Angelina Jolie, who recently wrote an op-ed in the New York Times demanding improved conditions in Syrian refugee camps. But that’s a different story, because Jolie came to activism after she got famous. She’s getting her picture taken in refugee camps and giving impassioned speeches at the U.N. precisely to direct those who are interested in her hair and clothes towards something more important.

But Amal’s just doing her job. Her work isn’t celebrity activism or a publicity stunt. Yet when it’s put in the context of celebrity fodder, Amal Clooney’s work on behalf of marginalized people gets reduced to just another thing a woman does while being beautiful.

So stop gushing. Stop with the headlines that trumpet Amal as a goddess for doing her job. Stop with the shock and awe that someone so beautiful could be so smart as well. Just let Amal keep doing her thing.

Read next: Amal Alamuddin Clooney and the Rise of the Trophy Husband

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Human Rights

Amal Clooney Begins Next Big Human Rights Case

FRANCE-EU-ARMENIA
Frederick Florin—AFP/Getty Images Lawyers Amal Clooney and Geoffrey Robertso, arrive on Jan. 28, 2015 to attend the appeal hearing in Perincek case before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France.

She'll represent Armenia's interests in a landmark genocide trial

After playing the role of red-carpet date for her husband, George Clooney, at the Golden Globes, Amal Clooney is taking off the white gloves and getting down to business.

Her latest mission: representing Armenia’s interests in a landmark trial before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg, France, beginning Wednesday.

The case is an appeal of a 2013 ruling by the ECHR – described as the Supreme Court of Europe – in which the court decided that a Swiss law prohibiting the public denial of the Armenian genocide is a violation of freedom of speech.

Switzerland is now appealing the verdict, and the outcome of the trial could have ramifications for other European nations, such as France, which have also attempted to outlaw genocide denial.

For her part, Clooney, 36, will attempt to refute testimony from countries, like Turkey, which do not accept that the mass killing and forced deportation of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire from 1915-1923 was an act of genocide.

The appeal is Clooney’s first big case of 2015. Last year, she represented Greece in the country’s bid to have the Elgin Marbles returned from the British Museum.

More recently, she represented one of three Al Jazeera journalists imprisoned in Egypt.

This article originally appeared on People.

Read next: Amal Alamuddin Clooney and the Rise of the Trophy Husband

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Cambodia

Cambodian Guards Drank Wine With Human Gallbladders, Says Genocide Survivor

Skulls are stacked on top of each other at a "Killing Fields" memorial in Batey district in Kampong Cham province
Chor Sokunthea—Reuters Skulls are stacked on top of each other at a Killing Fields memorial in Batey district in Kampong Cham province, 125 km (78 miles) east of Phnom Penh on March 28, 2009

Horrific testimony made at atrocity trial

In the 1970s, Khmer Rouge guards would drink wine infused with human gallbladders, according to a survivor of Cambodia’s infamous Killing Fields.

Former detainee Meas Sokha told the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia Khmer Rouge (ECCC) — a special tribunal created to investigate the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge regime — that guards at a prison in Takeo province would dry out the gallbladders of inmates and steep them in wine, reports the Cambodia Daily.

“Whenever there were killings, the guards would drink wine with a gallbladder. I could see gallbladders drying in the sun and I knew these were from human beings,” said Meas Sokha, who was imprisoned for three years in 1976. “There were so many [gallbladders] dried by the fence, it was put in wine for drinking and to make people brave.”

Sokha also told the U.N.-backed ECCC that he witnessed between 20 and 100 killings in a single day.

In some East Asian medical traditions, the use of animal bile in drinks — usually snake or bear bile — is thought to promote virility.

From 1975 until 1979, Cambodia experienced one of the most savage genocides of the 20th century, during which around 1.7 million people — a quarter of the national population — perished as the Khmer Rouge, the nation’s communist party led by the French-educated Pol Pot, pursued its agrarian utopia.

The court is currently investigating genocide charges against Khieu Samphan, 83, the regime’s head of state, and Nuon Chea, 88. Both were sentenced to life in prison for crimes against humanity in August.

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