East West Street and the Origins of Genocide & Crimes against Humanity: Looking Back, Looking Forward |René Cassin lecture with Philippe Sands


Chancellor Day Hall Maxwell Cohen Moot Court (NCDH 100), 3644 rue Peel, Montreal, QC, H3A 1W9, CA

The Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism invites you to its annual René Cassin lecture, which will be given by Professor Philippe Sands, UCL Faculty of Laws, Great Britain.

About the speaker

Philippe Sands QC is Professor of Law at University College London and a barrister at Matrix Chambers, of which he was a co-founder in 1999. He practises as Counsel before many international courts, including the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court. He sits as arbitrator in ICSID and other investor state disputes, and on the Court of Arbitration for Sports.

He is the author of fourteen academic books, including Principles of International Environmental Law (4th edition, 2018); of Lawless World (2005); and Torture Team (2008); and contributes to the New York Review of Books, Vanity Fair, the Financial Times and The Guardian.

His latest book is East West Street: On the Origins of Crimes Against Humanity and Genocide (Alfred Knopf/Weidenfeld & Nicolson), winner of numerous prizes, including the 2016 Baillie Gifford (Samuel Johnson) Prize, the 2017 British Book Awards Non-Fiction Book of the Year, and the 2018 Prix Montaigne. It is accompanied by a BBC Storyville film, My Nazi Legacy: What Our Fathers Did. He is now writing the sequel, along with a ten part BBC podcast series, The Ratline, to be broadcast in Sepember 2018.

He is President of English PEN and a Vice President of the Hay Festival. You can follow him on Twitter at @philippesands.

About the book

[From the publisher] East West Street: On the Origins of "Genocide" and "Crimes Against Humanity" looks at the personal and intellectual evolution of Rafael Lemkin and Hersch Lauterpacht, the two men who simultaneously originated the ideas of "genocide" and "crimes against humanity," both of whom, not knowing the other, studied at the same university with the same professors, in a city little known today that was a major cultural center of Europe, "the little Paris of Ukraine," a city variously called Lemberg, Lwów, Lvov, or Lviv.

In this extraordinary and resonant book, Sands looks at who these two very private men were, and at how and why, coming from similar Jewish backgrounds and the same city, studying at the same university, each developed the theory he did, showing how each man dedicated this period of his life to having his legal concept - "genocide" and "crimes against humanity" - as a centerpiece for the prosecution of Nazi war criminals.

And the author writes of a third man, Hans Frank, Hitler's personal lawyer, a Nazi from the earliest days who had destroyed so many lives, friend of Richard Strauss, collector of paintings by Leonardo da Vinci. Frank oversaw the ghetto in Lemberg in Poland in August 1942, in which the entire large Jewish population of the area had been confined on penalty of death. Frank, who was instrumental in the construction of concentration camps nearby and, weeks after becoming governor general of Nazi-occupied Poland, ordered the transfer of 133,000 men, women, and children to the death camps.

Sands brilliantly writes of how all three men came together, in October 1945 in Nuremberg - Rafael Lemkin; Hersch Lauterpacht; and in the dock at the Palace of Justice, with the twenty other defendants of the Nazi high command, prisoner number 7, Hans Frank, who had overseen the extermination of more than a million Jews of Galicia and Lemberg, among them, the families of the author's grandfather as well as those of Lemkin and Lauterpacht.

A book that changes the way we look at the world, at our understanding of history and how civilization has tried to cope with mass murder. Powerful; moving; tender; a revelation.

Cassin Lectureship

The René Cassin Lectureship is organized by the McGill Faculty of Law. In 1988, the Alliance Isréalite Universelle established this Lectureship to mark the centenary of the birth of René Cassin, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1968. The Alliance Isréalite Universelle is one of the oldest and most distinguished human rights organizations, having been founded in Paris in 1860. René Cassin was its president from 1943 to 1969.

We have received accreditation by a recognized provider for 1.5 hours of Continuing Legal Education for jurists.

Please note that while the location is wheelchair-accessible, construction work around the Faculty and the closure of McIntyre garage have made reaching our building more complicated. See our explainer on how to best reach the Faculty, which includes information for people with reduced mobility.

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