International Judicial Monitor
Published by the International judicial Academy of the International Law Institute, Washington, D.C.
with circulation assistance from the American Society of International Law

Spring 2017 Issue

Justice In Profile


Philippe Sands  - United Kingdom, Barrister

Philippe Sands

By: James G. Apple, Editor-in-Chief, International Judicial Monitor

English barristers have the well-deserved reputation of being among the best advocates in the world. Many of them attend Oxford or Cambridge Universities and participate in the debating activities of the Oxford Union or the Cambridge Union.  There they develop oratorical and advocacy skills which serve them well and often when they are called to the bar at one of the London Inns of Court: Middle Temple, Inner Temple, Lincoln’s Inn, Gray’s Inn.

One of the ablest barristers now arguing cases in courts, domestic and international, as well as carrying on a career as writer, law professor and arbitrator, is Philippe Sands QC. He is one of a small group of legal practitioners who would always be included in great lawyers of the world. His contributions to the cause of international law have been enormous.

Philippe Sands was born in London in October, 1960. He followed a traditional prospective barrister’s path, as described above, studying law at Cambridge as an undergraduate and post graduate student, receiving a B.A. degree in 1982 and a Master of Laws degree, First Class Honors, the next year. He spent an additional year as a research fellow at Harvard Law School. He has also held positions as a research fellow at St. Catherine’s College, Cambridge, and what is now the Lauterpacht Center for International Law (formerly Cambridge University Centre for International Law). He is a founding member (2000) of Matrix Chambers, with offices in London and Geneva, became Queen’s Counsel (took silk) in 2002, and was elected as a “Bencher” of the Middle Temple in 2009.

Along the way in such a distinguished practitioner’s career, he held several academic appointments, at King’s College, London; SOAS (School of Asian Studies) University of London; New York University Law School; the Sorbonne; University of Melbourne; Graduate School of International Development Studies, Indiana University; University of Toronto; Boston College Law School and Lviv University (Poland).

Sands’ primary practice is devoted to international law and international cases; he appears frequently before the International Court of Justice (World Court) in The Hague. More recently he has been involved in important international arbitration cases, both as counsel for one or more of the parties, and as an arbitrator.

However it is as an author that Sands has made his most notable contributions to international law, particular international human rights law. He has authored, co-authored and co-edited seventeen books on varying aspects of international law, fourteen of which are primarily academic titles. Three non-academic books are worthy of mention here.

In 2005 Sands published Lawless World, which focused on the legality of the 2003 Iraqi War (see In Review, International Judicial Monitor, March 2006 by clicking on Archives at the top of the Home Page of the Monitor). The full title of the book, Lawless World: America and the Breaking of Global Rules from FDR’s Atlantic Charter to George W. Bush’s Illegal War, gives the prospective reader some suggestion of the topics covered in the book and the author’s views about them. In addition to


the specific items in the title, other subjects covered include the London hearings related to Augusto Pinochet, former Dictator of Chile, the International Criminal Court (ICC) and its founding, and the Guantanamo Bay detention center operated by the United States for the incarceration of alleged terrorists.

The second book follows a similar theme: Torture Team: Rumsfeld’s Memo and the Betrayal of American Values. This book deals specifically with activities surrounding the use of “enhanced interrorgation techniques” at Guantanamo Bay. The book led to invitations to Sands to testify between 2004 and 2009 before the Houses of Parliament in the U.K. and before the U.S. Congress about international torture issues.

The third books is his most recent, East West Street: On the  Origins of “Genocide” and “Crimes Against Humanity” (2016). This work profiles the lives of two international lawyers responsible for the creation of the terms “genocide” and “crimes against humanity:” Hersch Lauterpacht and Rafael Lemkin, both from the same city in Poland, Lembey (also known as Lviv, Lvov, and Lwow). In his research for this book he also discovered his own connection with the city; his grandfather was born there. Also included in the book is a fourth man, Hans Frank, who was also came from that city and was Hitler’s personal lawyer and Governor-General of the Polish Territory during the Holocaust. Hans Frank was one of the defendants at the Nuremberg Trials in 1945-46, in and at which both Hersch Lauterpacht and Rafael Lemkin were involved and present. Frank was one of the defendants found guilty in that trial. He was hanged as a result of the verdict against him.

This book is as much a mystery as it is a history, in that it unravels an untold story, the result of Sands investigations and research. It received the 2016 Baille Gifford Prize and in 2017 the Jewish Quarterly-Wingate Prize.

Sands versatility as a communicator is demonstrated by his involvement in the project to make a film from the revelations in the East-West history. He wrote the script for the film, titled My Nazi Legacy: What Our Fathers Did. The film focuses on the lives of two sons of two high Nazi officials, one of which is Hans Frank. The film has been awarded several film festival prizes as a documentary.

Sands interest in international environmental law led to lecture before the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom on “Climate Change and the Rule of Law: Adjudicating the Future of International Law.” The speech included an argument that proposed that an international judicial body, such as the International Court of Justice, take up the issue of climate change so as to “resolve the scientific dispute about climate change and be authoritative and legally dispositive.”

Sands received in 1999 the Henri Rolin medal for his contributions to international law and in 2005 the Elizabeth Hank Prize for contributions to international environmental law.

Space does not permit the complete accounting of all of the positive contributions that Philippe Sands has made during his career to the cause of international law. The International Judicial Monitor is pleased to present this brief portrayal of him and his dedication to that concept and its institutions.

ASIl & International Judicial AcademyInternational Judicial Monitor
© 2017 – The International Judicial Academy
with assistance from the American Society of International Law.

Editor: James G. Apple.
IJM welcomes comments, suggestions, and submissions.
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