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Lawless World: America and the Making and Breaking of Global Rules~Philippe Sands Paperback – Import, 2005

4.1 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane; New Ed edition (2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0713997923
  • ISBN-13: 978-0713997927
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,496,472 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By R. Spottiswood on June 16, 2005
Format: Paperback
Before starting, I must say that I do not know much about international law, though I have spent a lot of time observing international affairs. This book sets out what international law is, how it has been made, and how and why America is refusing to follow it. The first chapters deal specifically with the history of international law. Basically, it was essentially begun by America during World War II, with a lot of British help, as a system of protecting individuals from abuse by foreign governments. It expanded to protect individuals from abuse by their own governments as well. The Pinochet case, which the author spends a lot of time on, expanded it further, if controversially, to the idea that a head of state cannot claim immunity from a charge of torture or murder or genocide with the defence that they were official state actions. As far as I can tell, it accurately reflects the view of international law outside of America.

The next few chapters mostly deal with America's modern stance on international law. First off, the author demonstrates that America has no problem with non-Americans being held accountable to international law, including international tribunals over war crimes. He then demonstrates that America also has no problems obeying international economic law. His theory is that this is because economic laws help the US, so it sees no need to ignore and denigrate them - yet. Then comes America's stance on international law. He provides general evidence and specific examples, such as the Kyoto Agreement and the International Criminal Court, of international laws and areas that America has withdrawn itself from.

The last chapters deal mainly with what America has chosen to do with its self-declared freedom from international law and accountability: torture.
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Format: Paperback
In 1941, prior to Pearl Harbour, the United States broke with a generation typified by "isolationism" from world affairs. Recognising the threat to world stability German and Japanese expansion posed, Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt committed their nations to a novel thesis - international cooperation was the foundation for solutions to a variety of problems. The foundation, while recognising military needs, was laid to avoid war. The Atlantic Charter endeavoured to resolve problems in anticipation of conflict. Philippe Sands traces the steps through which international law was conceived and implemented for six decades. Only now, at the beginning of the 21st Century, and by the actions of two national leaders, is that cooperative foundation being seriously eroded.

This important and penetrating study, authored by a man involved in international law at many levels, outlines the path taken in building cooperation among nations. He demonstrates how the often halting and innovative steps have produced results. The Pinochet case, involving Britain, Spain and Chile, show how effective and precedent-setting some of these actions have been. Although there are pre-WWII occurrences of international cooperation resolving individual issues, the grander themes of human rights, environmental concerns and economic liberalisation have come about in the years after the Atlantic Charter. Advances such as the Law of the Sea, the Convention Against Torture, the International Criminal Court and the Kyoto Protocol demonstrate the possibilities for extending justice and protecting the environment. One nation, the United States, has either avoided commitment to these instruments, or shelved their provisions when it deemed its own interests were paramount.
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Format: Hardcover
As A lawyer I approached Phillipe Sands book with some interest. He is a renowned International Lawyer working from Chambers containing some of the leading barristers in the field. I also had misgivings about the legality of Iraq, Guantanamo and the Bush/Blair anti terror crusade without truly understanding the full legal background.

This book was both informative, disturbing and remarkably well written. Sands begins with the Atlantic Charter - the original initiative of Roosevelt and Churchill that set down the foundation for present international standards. He then traces the pioneering work of both the USA and Britain in helping to establish the institutions that monitor and protect such standards.

It is against this background that we then see the apparent disdain with which the administrations of both countires now view international law in the context of the war on terror. What is particularly disturbing is the double standard as as laws are used to enforce international laws against countries that we don't like but which do not apply to us.

In a careful, forensic analysis he completely dismantles any possible arguments that the war on Iraq was lawful or that inmates at Guatantamo are outside the basic protection of the Geneva Conventions. Of particular interest to UK readers is the alarming change of legal advice provided by the Attorney General over a period of mere weeks in 2003 in the build up to war.

He emphasises the important point that if the UK and USA ignore international standards then how much more difficult will it be to complain if other nations fail to apply such rules in their dealings with us.

Whatever one thinks of the rights and wrongs of the events of the last few years Sands leaves us in no doubt that whatever we do has to be kept within the legal framework which we ourselves established.
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