Picture of author.

Philippe Sands

Author of East West Street

14+ Works 1,723 Members 46 Reviews 2 Favorited

About the Author

Philippe Sands was born in 1960 in London. He is a graduate of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, receiving his B.A. in 1982 and his LLM, first class honours in 1983. He finished his postgraduate studies at Cambridge and was a visiting scholar at Harvard Law School. He has held positions at show more numerous distinguished universities around the world. He was called to the Bar of England and Wales in 1985. He has written numerous academic and general nonfiction books, newspaper articles, book reviews, and more. His books include Lawless World, and Torture Team. In 2016, he won the Baillie Gifford Prize for nonfiction, for East West Street: On the Origins of Genocide and Crimes against Humanity. (Bowker Author Biography) show less
Image credit: Philippe Sands. Photo courtesy of Chatham House.

Works by Philippe Sands

Associated Works

I Will Never See the World Again (2018) — Foreword, some editions — 128 copies
The Death of a Soldier Told by His Sister (2021) — Foreword, some editions — 18 copies


Common Knowledge

London, England, UK
Places of residence
London, England, UK
University of Cambridge (Corpus Christi College)
Harvard Law School
Professor of Laws
Director of the Centre on International Courts and Tribunals
University College London
Awards and honors
Jewish Quarterly-Wingate Prize (East West Street) [2017]
Baillie Gifford Prize (East West Street) [2016]
2015 Honorary Doctorate in law, University of Lincoln
2005 Elizabeth Haub Prize for contribution to environmental law
1999 Henri Rolin medal for contribution to international law
Short biography
Sands was born in London on 17 October 1960 to a British Jewish family. He read law at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge attaining an LLB B.A. in 1982 and going on to achieve a first class honours in the LLM M.A. course a year later. After completing his postgraduate studies at Cambridge, Sands spent a year as a visiting scholar at the Harvard Law School.



FILBO | Apr 19, 2024 |
This unusual and complex project is the work of a professor of International Law. It is, perhaps mainly, an attempt to discuss the historical circumstances of the coming of the legal concepts of genocide and crimes against humanity, mostly by discussing the lives of the two men associated with these concepts, Raphael Lemkin and Hersch Lauterpacht, both originally from the town of Lemberg or Lviv in Galicia. These men’s lives were interrupted by the Nazis, and their concepts ultimately came to fruition at the Nuremberg trials, where what had happened to them and their families was partially distilled into these ideas, which were used to justify the execution of a handful of Nazi bigwigs. If that were all that this book was, I don’t think I would care for it very much. I am not an attorney, and although these concepts are obviously important to the author, I think they are not sufficiently explained in some logical legal context, and their discussion becomes tedious. After a while it just becomes an account of Lemkin’s and Lauterpacht’s maneuvers to get their idea used at the trial. But, the book is also several other things; it is a fascinating detective story describing the author’s search for facts about his own maternal grandfather’s life; it is a biography of Hans Frank, the Governor-General of the General Government (the part of occupied Poland that had not been absorbed by Germany), and a man intimately associated with the destruction of these men’s families; it is a behind the scenes view of what went on among the judges and prosecutors at Nuremberg; and, since the author leaves no stone unturned, it is also his captivating accounts of interviews with survivors and relatives of all of these people.… (more)
markm2315 | 20 other reviews | Jul 1, 2023 |
I stumbled across this recently and am very glad I did.

The blurb states:

After the Second World War, new international rules heralded an age of human rights and self-determination. Supported by Britain, these unprecedented changes sought to end the scourge of colonialism. But how committed was Britain?

The little known Chagos Archipelago was, at that time considered a dependency of Mauritius which itself had been ruled by the British, it having been ceded by France under the Treaty of Paris of 1814, which ended the Napoleonic Wars (which France had earlier taken from the Dutch and before that claimed by Portugal).

Britain, like other colonial powers increasingly come under pressure to cede independence to its dependencies, and took steps to do so for Mauritius.

But in the 1960s at the request of the USA, Britain looked to 'detach' the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius before granting the later independence in order that Britain grant a lease or similar over Diego Garcia, the largest island in the Archipelago to the USA so it could construct and operate a military base, as part of similar bases in The Philippines, Australia, Guam etc.

Britain had be bend itself into knots to try and argue that the detachment was within international law and conventions. It forcibly removed some 1500 residents, asserting that there were merely temporary and had not ongoing attachment to the islands, notwithstanding many of them having been born on the islands to parents who themselves had been born there and having spent their whole lives there. No compensation was initially offered or paid, with derisory compensation being paid years later.
As a result, Britain claimed to have formed what it called the beautifully named British Indian Ocean Territory!

Over the next 40 years, culminating in a successful 2018 World Court (The Hague) challenge against Britain's actions, the Government of Mauritius, as well as the displaced residents, sought a remedy that would see this farcical situation being rectified.

The rules of the Court were such that any ruling would be non binding on the parties but, particularly given the very heavy majority against the British contentions, Britain was met with a lot of anger when it announced it would not accept Court decision nor its order to take steps to cede control of the Chagos Archipelago to Mauritius and remove the military base to allow the displaced residents to return.

There are suggestions that Britain's position was racially influenced given Britain had consistently maintained that it would not give any consideration to ceding control of the Falklands Islands to Argentina unless and until the (white) residents of the Falklands favored that, and yet Britain did not consult with Mauritius (or the residents of the Chagos Archipelago) before 'detaching' the Archipelago and/or granting the USA rights to build and maintain its military base there. Perhaps it is explicable if the USA had no interest in the Falklands, but was it made 'easier' by reason that the displaced residents were not white?

The author was one of the lead lawyers who lead that court challenge on behalf of Mauritius, and who interacted with many of the displaced residents. He provides (in an easy 150 or so pages) a clear picture not only of the legal basis of the shenanigans and legal challenges, but also of the personalities involved. Indeed the decision concluded that '[the detachment] was not based on the free and genuine expression of the will of the people concerned' (p 133, which is it is understood quoting from the Court decision).

In an epilogue, it is told that a number of the displaced residents travelled to the Chagos Archipelago in 2022 for a short visit. I understand, but am happy to be corrected, that Britain has not formally withdrawn from its position and it seems that the world and (more importantly) the displaced residents awaits resolution.

This is a story I was not familiar, with though I was vaguely aware that the USA had a military base on Diego Garcia, though I was not aware of how that came to be not of Britain's role in that.

It is a salutary lesson as to how much I am not aware of, even as to matters within my own life time.

Big Ship

29 November 2022
… (more)
bigship | 2 other reviews | Nov 28, 2022 |



You May Also Like

Associated Authors


Also by

Charts & Graphs