Philippe Sands

Nota: Este archivo abarca los artículos publicados por el autor desde el 1 de enero de 2008. Para fechas anteriores realice una búsqueda entrecomillando su nombre.

Britain Holds On to a Colony in Africa, With America’s Help

President Biden, speaking at the State Department’s headquarters soon after his inauguration, called the “rule of law” one of America’s “most cherished democratic values.” The notion, a central part of his foreign policy and his faith in treaties and international institutions, is both a riposte to the Trump administration and a useful stick with which to beat China and Russia.

During a recent visit to Japan and South Korea, Secretary of State Antony Blinken castigated Beijing for its “coercion and aggression” — for making extreme maritime claims in the South China Sea “that violate international law.”

Yet anyone who wants to weaponize the rule of law first needs to have their own house in order, and that includes being sure their closest allies do, too.…  Seguir leyendo »

David Cornwell, who wrote as John le Carré, in Austria in 1965. Credit Erich Hartmann/Magnum Photos

I came to know David Cornwell, who wrote as John le Carré, just after the United States and Britain removed Saddam Hussein from power. He was a neighbor; we met in our local pub in Hampstead in North London. We were introduced by a mutual friend who knew the genial white-haired gentleman in brown suede shoes. “Who was that?” I asked as we reached our own table.

Chance encounters followed, as we found common ground in our anger at the lies used to harness public support for war, the abuses of intelligence invoked to justify an invasion of Iraq. We bonded over our reaction to Colin Powell’s flawed Security Council presentation and Tony Blair’s mendacious “dodgy dossier.”…  Seguir leyendo »

Corbis via Getty Images Prime Minister Winston Churchill and President Franklin D. Roosevelt, with his son James, meeting to draw up the Atlantic Charter, August 1941

On June 26, the United Nations celebrates its seventy-fifth birthday. The initiative that led to that moment in 1945 began nearly four years earlier, at an August 1941 meeting between President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill, on a boat moored off the coast of Newfoundland, a British colony. For FDR, winning the war would necessarily mean a new, post-imperial world order. “I can’t believe that we can fight a war against fascist slavery, and at the same time not work to free people all over the world from a backward colonial policy,” he told Churchill. The British leader, an unrepentant imperialist for whom Canada, just across the water, was a recently lost British dominion, was apoplectic—but he desperately needed the United States first to get into the war (Pearl Harbor was still months away), and the two leaders signed their “Atlantic Charter.”…  Seguir leyendo »

Palabras y delitos

“Plaga”—“Negritos”—“¡Que los expulsen!”—“Enemigos del pueblo”—“Terrible colaboración”—“Judíos desleales”—“Países de mierda”—“Sonrisas de sandía”— “Prohibir a los musulmanes”—“Buzón”— “Violadores”—“Mierdas”—“No son personas, son animales”

Hace un par de años, en la cafetería de los delegados de Naciones Unidas, estuve presionando a los Gobiernos para que apoyaran una resolución que ayudara a Mauricio y África a deshacerse del último vestigio de colonialismo británico, el Archipiélago de Chagos. Nuestro principal oponente era el ministro de Exteriores británico, que, a su pesar, acabó siendo el mejor defensor de nuestra causa: años antes, había escrito un artículo que desgraciadamente conocían bien muchos diplomáticos, en el que llamaba a los residentes de un país africano de “negritos” con “sonrisas de sandía”.…  Seguir leyendo »

Il y a quelques années, je faisais du lobbying dans le salon des délégués, aux Nations unies (ONU), pour l’adoption d’une résolution qui devait débarrasser Maurice et l’Afrique d’un dernier vestige du colonialisme britannique : l’archipel des Chagos.

Notre principal adversaire, le secrétaire britannique aux affaires étrangères, se révéla malgré lui être le meilleur avocat du continent. Beaucoup de diplomates gardaient en mémoire l’article qu’il avait rédigé quelques années plus tôt [en 2002, lorsqu’il était simple membre du Parlement] traitant les résidents d’un pays africain de « négrillons » [picaninnies] au « sourire de pastèque » [watermelon smile].…  Seguir leyendo »

Against the background of mounting bloodshed and terror, Switzerland has asked the UN security council to refer the situation in Syria to the International criminal court. The aim is to send out an unequivocal message to all parties "to fully respect international human rights and humanitarian law", a warning that would have "an important dissuasive effect".

The request is supported by more than 50 countries from every part of the world, including several countries with firsthand experience of systematic human rights abuses and impunity, like Chile and Libya. Britain and France support the initiative, but have not so far been joined by the three other permanent members of the security council.…  Seguir leyendo »

Gaunt, frightened and with nowhere left to go, a captured Saif Gaddafi confronts the new Libyan government with a dilemma: whether or not to ship him off to The Hague.

In reality, the government's room for manoeuvre may be more limited than it thinks. In March, when security council resolution 1970 referred the situation in Libya to the prosecutor of the international criminal court, it internationalised the judicial response to Saif's alleged crimes. In May, the prosecutor reported that Saif was associated with the killings of peaceful demonstrators, the recruitment and mobilisation of mercenaries and militias, and the imprisonment and elimination of opponents.…  Seguir leyendo »

Nothing beats raw material for its capacity to home in on truth. These logs are unvarnished and brutal, and it will take some time to digest in full their implications. They describe the reality of the Afghan war, including, apparently, the widespread and increasing use of targeted killings.

In particular, the logs describe the efforts of a secret commando unit, Task Force 373, with its "joint prioritised effects list" of hundreds of senior targets, and its efforts to assassinate the enemy. Contrary to the impression that governments seek to promote, these operations are often unsuccessful and sometimes result in the killing of friendly forces and civilians.…  Seguir leyendo »

The four secret US department of justice opinions released this week are jaw-dropping in their detail. They reveal how far the Bush administration was prepared to go in sanctioning interrogation techniques that plainly amount to torture.

The long-awaited publication of the August 2002 memo, signed by Jay Bybee but largely written by John Yoo, authorises 10 previously unlawful interrogation techniques. These include slapping, stress position and sleep deprivation, right up to waterboarding. It is doubtful a more shocking legal opinion has ever been written. It even purports to analyse if incarcerating a detainee in a small box with an insect for company would amount to mental torture (it depends what you tell him about its sting).…  Seguir leyendo »

As the US presidential election reaches a climax against the background of the financial crisis, another silent, dark, time bomb of an issue hangs over the two candidates: torture. For now, there seems to be a shared desire not to delve too deeply into the circumstances in which the Bush administration allowed the US military and the CIA to embrace abusive techniques of interrogation - including waterboarding, in the case of the CIA - which violate the Geneva conventions and the 1984 UN torture convention.

The torture issue's cancerous consequences go deep, and will cause headaches for the next president. New evidence has emerged in Congressional inquiries that throw more light on the extent to which early knowledge and approval of the abuse went to the highest levels.…  Seguir leyendo »