Professor of International Law Philippe Sands tells the story of a memo. Sent in December 2002 to US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, it requested the approval of a number of coercive techniques of interrogation. As Sands tells Anna Funder, with his acceding signature, Rumsfeld pushed the United States beyond the pale of international law and directly towards the abuses of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay- Melbourne Writers Festival
Anna Funder, born 1966, is an Australian writer who grew up in Melbourne. She studied creative writing at the University of Technology, Sydney, also later studying at the Free University of Berlin as the recipient in 1994 of a DAAD Scholarship (German Government Academic Exchange Service Award). In 1995 after the Berlin Wall came down she applied for and received a Fellowship from the AGA to return to Germany.
Funder has worked as an international lawyer and in public relations for a German overseas television service in Berlin. Living and working in Berlin inspired her to write her first book, the non-fiction work Stasiland, which explores the machinations of the secret police known as the Stasi in the former German Democratic Republic. She was awarded the BBC Four Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction in 2004.
Philippe Sands joined the Faculty at University College London in January 2002. He is Professor of Law and Director of the Centre on International Courts and Tribunals in the Faculty, and a key member of staff in the Centre for Law and the Environment. His teaching areas include public international law, the settlement of international disputes (including arbitration), and environmental and natural resources law.
Sands is notable for authoring a book, Lawless World, where he accuses US President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair of conspiring to invade Iraq in violation of international law. His follow-up book, Torture Team: Rumsfeld's Memo and the Betrayal of American Values, was released in May, 2008. He also was the first to reveal a memo that revealed that Bush wanted to lure Saddam to shoot down a UN plane.
Philippe is a regular commentator on the BBC and CNN and writes frequently for leading newspapers. hHe is frequently invited to lecture around the world, and in recent years has been a Visiting Professor at the University of Toronto (2005), the University of Melbourne (2005) and the Universite de Paris I (Sorbonne) (2006, 2007). He has previously held academic positions at the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies, Kings College London and , University of Cambridge and was a Global Professor of Law at New York University from 1995-2003. He was co-founder of FIELD (Foundation for International Environmental Law and Development), and established the programmes on Climate Change and Sustainable Development. He is a member of the Advisory Boards of the European Journal of International Law and Review of European Community and International Environmental Law (Blackwell Press). In 2007 he served as a judge for the Guardian First Book Prize award.
As a practicing barrister he has extensive experience litigating cases before the International Court of Justice, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes, and the European Court of Justice. He frequently advises governments, international organisations, NGOs and the private sector on aspects of international law. In 2003 he was appointed a Queen's Counsel. He has been appointed to lists of arbitrators maintained by ICSID and the PCA.
Author, lawyer, and scholar Philippe Sands explains that while Bush called his response to the September 11th attacks a "war on terror" in order to stir up support for his subsequent actions, it also served to legitimize Al-Qaeda and turned a definite incident into an indefinite struggle.
Philippe Sands describes his investigation into who authorized the use of torture at Guantanamo Bay Prison, explaining that while the federal government initially claimed people at the prison made the decision, he soon discovered the order came from the highest levels of government.
Philippe Sands argues that although torture is clearly a war crime, it is unlikely the United States government will ever prosecute its own officials. However, Sands suggests there is a very good possibility people involved in the decision to use torture may face charges from countries outside the U.S.