Philippe Sands, Professor of Law at the University of London
Wednesday, October 11, 2023
12:30 PM (Pacific Time)
ABOUT THE BOOK
The moving, inspiring David-and-Goliath true story of freedom and justice involving one tiny nation in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Africa, and the extraordinary woman, a descendant of slaves, who dared to take on the Crown and the United Kingdom—and win a historic victory.
In 1973, on the Chagos Islands off the coast of Africa, Liseby Elyse—twenty years old, newly married and four months pregnant—was, rounded up, along with the entire population of Chagos, and ordered to pack her belongings and leave her beloved homeland by ship or slowly starve; the British had cut off all food supplies.
Some two thousand people who had lived on the islands of Chagos for generations, many the direct descendants of enslaved people brought there from Mozambique and Madagascar in the 18th century by the French and British, were deported overnight from their island paradise as the result of a secret decision by the British government to provide the United States with land to construct a military base in the Indian Ocean.
For four decades the government of Mauritius fought for the return of Chagos. Three decades into the battle, Philippe Sands became the lead lawyer in the case, designing its legal strategy and assembling a team of lawyers from Mauritius, Belgium, India, Ukraine, and the U.S.
When the case finally reached the World Court in the Hague, Sands chose as the star witness the diminutive Liseby Elyse, now sixty-five years old, and instructed her to appear before the court, speaking in Kreol, to tell the fourteen international judges her story of forced exile. The fate of Chagos rested on her testimony.
The judges faced a landmark decision: Would they rule that Britain illegally detached Chagos from Mauritius? Would Liseby Elyse sway the judges and open the door, allowing her and her fellow Chagossians to return home—or would they remain exiled forever?
Philippe Sands writes of his own journey into international law and that of the World Court in the Hague, and of the extraordinary decades-long quest of Liseby Elyse, and the people of Chagos, in their fight for justice and a free and fair return to the idyllic land of their birth.
ORDER THE BOOK
Order The Last Colony: A Tale of Exile, Justice, and Courage from Knopf.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Philippe Sands is professor of law at the University of London, the Samuel Pisar Visiting professor at Harvard Law School, and the author of East West Street. He held the role of president of English PEN for five years from February 2018 to April 2023, is a frequent commentator on CNN and the BBC World Service, and a litigator before international courts. In 2003 he was appointed a Queen's Counsel. He lives in London, England.
ABOUT THE MODERATOR
Leslie Johns is a professor of political science and law at UCLA. She is also Associate Director of the Burkle Center for International Relations.
Her research focuses on international law, organizations, and political economy.
In 2022, Cambridge University Press published her newest book, Politics and International Law: Making, Breaking, and Upholding Global Rules. You can access related news stories on the book's Twitter account: @PoliticsIntlLaw
Her work appears in the American Political Science Review, International Organization, Journal of Conflict Resolution and the Journal of Politics. Her first book–Strengthening International Courts: The Hidden Costs of Legalization–was published in 2015 by the University of Michigan Press. She received the Michael Wallerstein Award for political economy in 2017.
She is a former term member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and a former research fellow at the Niehaus Center for Globalization and Governance at Princeton University (2012-2013 and 2021-2022).
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Sponsor(s): Burkle Center for International Relations, African Studies Center, Political Science, International & Comparative Law Program (ICLP) at UCLA School of Law, The Promise Institute for Human Rights at UCLA School of Law