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Friday, May 02, 2008


by Sarah Meyer
Index Research
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Philippe Sands, QC
sarah meyer

Military necessity does not admit of cruelty. President Lincoln, 1863.

Updates to this article Most recent update 7 July '09.

PHILIPPE SANDS, author of The Torture Team was introduced last evening to a capacity-filled, chandeliered room at The Law Society, 119 Chancery Lane, London WC2. QCs, lawyers and distinguished guests were present, eager to hear the person who was being sponsored by The Guardian. Editor, ALAN RUSBRIDGE opened the evening: Mr. Sands has a way of orchestrating things. What motivates him? He has a passionate sense of justice and a belief in how lawyers should behave. I am here as a fan and am a big admirer of what he does, and of his bravery, Mr. Rusbridge said. The Guardian published several articles (see References) concerning this extraordinary, and quietly spoken, Englishman. Jonathan Cooper, who organises the excellent Human Rights course at The London School of Economics, also spoke briefly.

The evening opened with a showing of Spencer Tracy in Judgment at Nuremburg. It was the judgment in this film that inspired Mr. Sands to start interviewing the team of lawyers who influenced the U.S. Government to instigate, in its Action Memo, the violatation of Common Article Three of the Geneva Conventions, spoken about as Geneva by President Bush.

Mr. Sands spoke for over an hour, giving a synopsis of his book about the lawyers involved in decisions concerning new tactics to get information from U.S. prisoners. What were the crucial issues, what is the centre of gravity, he wondered. They emerged. He was particularly interested in these two subjects, he said.

1. Why had the Geneva Colnventions been put aside
2. What was the relationship between Bybee / Yoo and the decision Rumsfeld took.

There were people, including Republicans, who were against the eighteen new techniques for interrogating detainees. These moles were of help to Mr. Sands, he said.

I am not a journalist, I am a lawyer, he said. Perhaps this is why lawyers involved in this important decision agreed to speak with him.

Basically, the people were involved in a coverup, willing to shaft individuals in order to protect their own backsides, he said, with reference to the disgraceful way both Diane Beaver (Staff Judge Advocate, JTF=GTMO) and Major General Michael Dunlavey (Joint Task Force 170) were treated in the governments urgency to hide the paper trail.

Addington doesnt leave paper trails, never gives interviews to anyone. He is the brains behind it all, said Mr. Sands.

I had earlier asked Mr. Sands if he had heard from any of those he interviewed. Dunlavey has not responded, nor has anyone. He was not sure the book is available yet in the U.S.

On p. 98, Mr. Sands writes: .. there was a widespread fear of more attacks. A general mood of anxiety pervaded the country. Surely, I said, this anxiety and fear was kickstarted in the White House, and helped by the media. And, I further asked, isnt 'Al -Qaeda' sprinkled around like birdseed by this administration? Mr. Sands smiled. I didnt write opinions. I let the reader sort that out.

I had not reached the appropriate page in Torture Team, and so asked the second question related to a reference on p. 101. Mr. Sands wrote: some detainees had tenaciously resisted current interrogation methods. This was a reference to al-Qahtani and another detainee whose identity was and remains classified and secret. Did he know who this classified and secret person was? Slahi, prisoner number 239 (p. 139, 179) Mr. Sands said.

Torture Team is a MUST READ book.

MR SANDS IS TO TESTIFY AT A HEARING ON TORTURE LIABILITY BEFORE THE HOUSE SUBCOMITTEE ON THE CONSTITUTION, CIVIL RIGHTS, AND CIVIL LIBERTIES AT 10 AM ON Tuesday, 6 MAY. The hearing is entitled 'From the Department of Justice to Guantanamo Bay'. Marjorie Cohn, author and Professor of Law at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, will also provide testimony. Mr. Yoo declined the invitation to testify. There are rumours that other lawyers have refused the invitation to testify. ??


Robicheaux's Nightmare: US Rendition, Guantanamo, Torture in February 2008 (UPDATED)

Nasty Bugs: Philippe Sands (Guardian 12.03.08)

I Googled 24 and Jack Bauer'(Guardian 19.04.08)

Top Bush aides pushed for Guantánamo torture (Richard Norton-Taylor, Guardian 19.04.08)

Stress, hooding, noise, nudity, dogs (P. Sands, Guardian 19.04.08)

Tortured explanations, K. Gude, Guardian 19.04.08)

Mr. Slahi is mentioned in The Guantanamo Files by Andy Worthington, pp. 221-2; 286-8)

The Green Light (by P. Sands, Vanity Fair May 2008)


US accused of war crimes over torture methods
20.08.08. ABC. The use of torture by the US Government in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in New York on September 11, 2001 has come under increasing criticism. ... / In his new book, [QC] lawyer Philippe Sands argues that the responsible officials, and the lawyers who advised them, should be charged with war crimes.

Considering the War Crimes Trial of the Bush Administration
01.10.08. Nat Henhoff, Village Voice. Over the weekend of September 13 and 14, a historic gathering in Andover, Massachusetts, took place and garnered little media attention. But at that two-day conference, serious plans were laid for a war-crimes trial of the Bush administration. Convened by Lawrence Velvel, dean of the Massachusetts School of Law, the scheduled participants included two people who have been cited as authorities in this column.

The first was Philippe Sands, director of the Centre of International Courts and Tribunals at London's University College and the author of Torture Team: Rumsfeld's Memo and the Betrayal of American Values (Palgrave Macmillan), and the other was Jordan Paust, a University of Houston law professor and the author of Beyond the Law (Cambridge University Press). The latter, a peerless documentation of the Bush regime's lawlessness, includes this quote: "Not since the Nazi era have so many lawyers been so clearly involved in international crimes concerning the treatment and interrogation of persons detained during war." (As it happened, Paust was unable to attend due to the aftermath of Hurricane Ike.)

Among the 120 legal authorities and scholars at the conference, Dean Velvel notes, was "Ann Wright, a former U.S. Army colonel and U.S. Foreign Service official who holds a State Department Award for Heroism and who taught the Geneva Conventions and the Law of Land Warfare at the Special Warfare Section at Fort Bragg, North Carolina." Also present was Francis Boyle, a professor of international law at the University of Illinois, who drafted the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989 and was earlier responsible for the U.S. implementing legislation for the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention.

These war-crimes probers are of a significantly higher moral and intellectual grade than the general run of cable-television and Internet pundits. Read more!

The Prosecution for War Crimes of President Bush
13.10.08. Sherwood Ross Assoc. Press Release, Massachusetts law school Dean Lawrence Velvel will chair a Steering Committee to pursue the prosecution for war crimes of President Bush and culpable high-ranking aides after they leave office Jan. 20th. Besides Velvel, members will include Philippe Sands, Bem Davis, Majorie Cohn, Chris Pyle, Elaine Scarrym Peter Weiss, David Swanson, Kristina Borjesson, Collene Costello, Valeria Gheorghiu, Andy Worthington.

18.10.08. Philippe Sands, The Guardian. 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. / Buried away in this testimony lies the most dangerous material of all: evidence which may establish that abuses on detainees in Iraq in September 2003, in the period perhaps including the events at Abu Ghraib, were the result of decisions taken at the highest levels of the administration. The administration has long proclaimed it did not allow aggressive interrogations in Iraq, since the Geneva conventions applied. Last month we learned this was false.

Publish and Be Damned, Mr Cheney
21.04.09. Philippe Sands, Guardian. Dick Cheney wants classified material released to show that torture 'worked'. Let's see it all waterboarding videos included. VIDEO: Sean Hannity interviews Dick Cheney, Part 2 of 4.

Q&A: Phillipe Sands (07.05.09. New Statesman)

Tony Blair knew of secret policy on terror interrogations
18.06.09. Ian Cobain, Guardian. Letter reveals former PM was aware of guidance to UK agents. … The policy almost certainly breaches international human rights law, according to Philipps Sands QC, one of the world’s leading experts in the field, because it takes no account of Britain’s obligation to avoid complicity in torture under the UN convention against torture. Despite this, the secret policy went on to underpin British intelligence agencies which had become the UK’s allies in the “war against terror.”

This Iraq inquiry must be transparent
21.06.09. Philippe Sands, Guardian. The role of chairman is crucial. I don't know Sir John Chilcot and have no reason to doubt that he is a dedicated civil servant who believes himself to be acting in the public interest. But questions abound. / … the British public should form its own view as to Lord Goldsmith's explanation of the differences between his secret legal opinion of 7 March 2003 and his parliamentary answer of 17 March 2003, or the explanation given by Sir John Scarlett and Tony Blair as to the failure of the Joint Intelligence Committee to advise on Iraq's WMD capability at any time after 18 December 2002.

The truth about torture
08.07.09. Ian Cobain, Guardian. there is mounting evidence that torture is still regarded by some agents of the British state as a useful and legitimate investigative tool. There is evidence too that in the post-9/11 world, government officials have been prepared to look the other way while British citizens, and others, have been tortured in secret prisons around the world. It is also clear that an official policy, devised to govern British intelligence officers while interrogating people held overseas, resulted in people being tortured. / The Guardian has established that Tony Blair, when prime minister, was aware of the existence of this policy. What he knew of its terrible consequences is less clear: he has repeatedly been asked, in a series of letters from the Guardian, what he believed to have happened to those who were subjected to the policy, but he has repeatedly failed to answer the question. There is a growing suspicion that Blair could not have been alone, and that other very senior figures in government may have been aware of the existence of Britain's secret interrogation policy. What did David Blunkett and Jack Straw, the ministers responsible for MI5 and MI6 at the time, know about the policy and its consequences for people detained in the so-called war on terror? They too have declined to say, stating that it is the British government's policy not to condone torture, but that they cannot comment further because of a number of forthcoming court cases. … On 9 January 2002, a few hours after Blair became the first western leader to visit Afghanistan's new post-Taliban leader, Hamid Karzai, an aircraft carrying the first group of MI5 interrogators touched down at Bagram airfield, 32 miles north of Kabul. A number of MI6 officers were already in Afghanistan, however, and the following day one of them conducted the first British interrogation of a detainee held by US forces. Immediately after the interrogations ended, senior intelligence officers back in London received a clear signal that they and government ministers would need to find innovative ways of co-operating with their US allies in the new, gloves-off world. … / Shoulder to shoulder with the US Sandspoints out that article 4 of the 1984 UN Convention Against Torture, to which the UK is a party, criminalises "an act by any person which constitutes complicity or participation in torture", and that the 1998 Rome statute of the international criminal court extends criminal responsibility where military commanders and civilian superiors "should have known" that international crimes were being committed but "failed to take all necessary and reasonable measures within his or her power to prevent or repress their commission". The meaning of complicity, he adds, is clarified by a 1998 judgment by the international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Its appeal chamber treated "complicity" as being akin to "aiding and abetting" or "assistance" that could be "physical or in the form of moral support". A crime could be committed even if the abettor did not take any tangible action, provided the actions "directly and substantially" assisted and where there was "knowledge ... that torture is being practised". / According to Sands, the instructions "may have caused British personnel to cross a line into complicity", and that ministers who approved the policy may also be culpable. … / Drill another hole in his buttocks' : (details of torture); MI5's 11th commandment: Thou shalt not get caught ; Related stories listed.
Sarah Meyer is a researcher living in the U.K.

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