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Reasons to Comply

Philippe Sands: International law, 20 July 2006

The Limits of International Law 
by Jack Goldsmith and Eric Posner.
Oxford, 262 pp., £17.99, February 2005, 0 19 516839 9
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War Law: International Law and Armed Conflict 
by Michael Byers.
Atlantic, 214 pp., £16.99, April 2005, 1 84354 338 9
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... Not since World War Two has the nature and adequacy of international law provoked such a debate, both in Britain and abroad. A great number of international agreements have been adopted over the past sixty years, establishing minimum standards of behaviour with which states and other international actors must undertake to comply. They affect people in every country, and cover just about every subject: trade, investment, air transport, oceans, boundaries, environment, human rights, armed conflict ...

A Grand and Disastrous Deceit

Philippe Sands: The Chilcot Report, 28 July 2016

The Report of the Iraq Inquiry 
by John Chilcot.
HMSO, 12 vols, 6275 pp., £767, 1 4741 3331 2
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... The Iraq Inquiry​ , chaired by Sir John Chilcot and composed of five privy councillors, finally published its report on the morning of 6 July, seven years and 21 days after it was established by Gordon Brown with a remit to ‘look at the run-up to the conflict, the conflict itself and the reconstruction, so that we can learn lessons’.* It offers a long and painful account of an episode that may come to be seen as marking the moment when the UK fell off its global perch, trust in government collapsed and the country turned inward and began to disintegrate ...

In Defence of Rights

Philippe Sands and Helena Kennedy, 3 January 2013

... We were appointed to the Commission on a Bill of Rights in March 2011 by Nick Clegg. The circumstances were not auspicious, and we were concerned from the outset that our composition – all white, almost all male, almost all lawyers and London-based – would undermine our ability to speak with any legitimacy. The Conservatives had come into government committed to tearing up the Human Rights Act, an early product of the previous Labour government seen by many of the new government’s Tory supporters (and some in the media) as little more than a charter for foreign terrorists and local criminals ...

Except for His Father

Isabel Hull: The Origins of Genocide, 16 June 2016

East West Street: On the Origins of Genocide and Crimes against Humanity 
by Philippe Sands.
Weidenfeld, 437 pp., £20, May 2016, 978 1 4746 0190 0
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... action’ of August 1942, when the Jews of Lemberg were rounded up and sent to their deaths. Philippe Sands’s remarkable book is a voyage of discovery into the lost world of Lemberg/Lwów, its people, and their actions and ideas as these rippled outwards into the larger world we still inhabit. In 2010, Sands, an ...

Guano to Guns

Laleh Khalili, 16 February 2023

The Last Colony: A Tale of Exile, Justice and Britain’s Colonial Legacy 
by Philippe Sands.
Weidenfeld, 208 pp., £16.99, August 2022, 978 1 4746 1812 0
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... displaced from Peros Banhos was a woman called Liseby Elysé. Elysé is at the centre of the story Philippe Sands tells about the multiple cases Chagossians and the government of Mauritius have brought against the UK government in various legal forums. Sands, a specialist in international law, is known for his accounts ...

Gloves Off

Glen Newey: Torture, 29 January 2009

Death by a Thousand Cuts 
by Timothy Brook, Jérôme Bourgon and Gregory Blue.
Harvard, 320 pp., £22.95, March 2008, 978 0 674 02773 2
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Standard Operating Procedure: A War Story 
by Philip Gourevitch and Errol Morris.
Picador, 286 pp., £8.99, January 2009, 978 0 330 45201 4
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Torture Team: Deception, Cruelty and the Compromise of Law 
by Philippe Sands.
Allen Lane, 315 pp., £20, May 2008, 978 1 84614 008 2
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... restraints on prisoner interrogation in the Geneva Conventions and elsewhere is the main theme of Philippe Sands’s Torture Team. The book examines the signing into US law of a memo setting aside Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions (CA3), which prohibits cruel or inhuman treatment of POWs. As in Standard Operating Procedure, the tale ...

Short Cuts

Conor Gearty: Versions of Denial, 25 January 2024

... But by then the story had taken off. The legal experts had given Israel a legal blank cheque. Even Philippe Sands – who has represented the Palestinians at the International Court of Justice – said of Keir Starmer’s persistent refusal to call for a ceasefire that he ‘has got the tone absolutely right in adopting a non knee-jerk response – I ...

War Therapy

Chase Madar: Victors’ Justice, 22 April 2010

Victors’ Justice: From Nuremberg to Baghdad 
by Danilo Zolo, translated by M.W. Weir.
Verso, 189 pp., £14.99, October 2009, 978 1 84467 317 9
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... its rightful primacy, guiding and ordering world affairs from the UN building in Manhattan. Philippe Sands, a prominent proponent of this view, claims that after the fall of the Berlin Wall, ‘the liberal Anglo-American vision of a rules-based international system appeared to be becoming a reality.’ True, there had been some backsliding in the ...

Good New Idea

John Lanchester: Universal Basic Income, 18 July 2019

... and humans doing less, and often less interesting, work. These trends overlap and compound. As Philippe Van Parijs and Yannick Vanderborght put it in Basic Income: A Radical Proposal for a Free Society and a Sane Economy,We live in a new world, remade by many forces: the disruptive technological revolution, brought about by the computer and the ...


Jonathan Lamb: 18th-century seafaring, 20 March 2003

Voyages of Delusion: The Search for the Northwest Passage in the Age of Reason 
by Glyn Williams.
HarperCollins, 467 pp., £8.99, March 2003, 0 00 653213 6
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Voyage to Desolation Island 
by Jean-Paul Kauffmann, translated by Patricia Clancy.
Harvill, 177 pp., £14.99, October 2001, 1 86046 926 4
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... This ‘mer de l’ouest’ had been dreamed up forty years before by two French cartographers, Philippe Buache and Joseph Nicolas Delisle – Buache had claimed that his map was ‘supported by every kind of proof . . . except the living testimony of mariners who had made the voyage’. Why enlightened and rational people should have entertained such ...

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