Philippe Sands, the lawyer at war with London

This is a phrase that Philippe Sands is particularly fond of: “The individual is the ultimate source of all rights. » Borrowed from Hersch Lauterpacht, it accompanies readers to the masterful historical investigation that made Sands known throughout the world. If you haven’t yet read “Return to Lemberg”, not only is it in your pocket, but it’s essential. The Franco-British lawyer – or Anglo-French as he prefers to say to signify his disapproval of Brexit – recounts the birth of international criminal law by mixing it with his biographical quest. Its heroes are precisely this Hersch Lauterpacht and Raphaël Lemkin, the jurists who shaped one, the notion of crime against humanity, the other, that of genocide. Like his own grandfather, both men were born into Jewish families in the vicinity of Lviv, a city in present-day Ukraine (known as Lemberg in the 19th century).e century), or in the middle of these “Bloodlands” where the law is today again flouted. Like his grandfather, they lost their family, exterminated by the Nazis.

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Through the journey of these two jurists, Sands shows in a luminous way how international law works: an idea germinates in a mind, it takes on a written consistency, it migrates from one text to another and ends, through the uses and the interpretations that are made of it, by taking on an autonomous existence

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