Obituary of Louise Rands Silva | Law

Louise Rands Silva, who died of cancer at the age of 57, worked as my helper for almost 30 years, on cases, books and a myriad of other activities related to issues of international law and justice. She also had a strong commitment to community engagement, working alongside in education, for Sure Start, as head of a forestry school, in a school working with children with behavioral difficulties and as a teaching assistant in a primary school.

Born in Byfleet, Surrey, Louise was the daughter of Barbara Wright, a primary school teacher, and John Rands, a public health inspector. When the family moved to North Devon, they went to school at South Molton Community College and Kelly College, then spent a year working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 1986, she went to St Edmund Hall, University of Oxford, to study English Literature. She moved to Brazil to teach English as a foreign language, then returned to London to work as a legal assistant at a Brazilian law firm.

In 1992, I employed Louise at the Foundation for International Environmental Law and Development at Soas University, London. There we worked together on projects on climate change, sustainable development and international courts and tribunals.

A highlight for her was being part of the team in The Hague on the 1996 Legality of Use of Nuclear Weapons Case which ruled that the protection of the environment is now part of international law. There, Louise completed a part-time master’s degree at Soas in South American Development Studies.

A detail of an illustration by Martin Rowson, featuring Louise Rands Silva, for Philippe Sands’ forthcoming Chagos book, The Last Colony

In 1993 she married Maú de Jesus Silva, a guide and musician she had met in Brazil, and they later moved to Bideford, North Devon, to raise their children. There Louise began her work in education, focusing on young families and in her work as a forestry school leader, taking children outdoors to help them understand the wonders of the natural world. Later she worked with refugee families in North Devon, teaching English.

Throughout this period, Louise and I never stopped working together. She transcribed all the interviews I conducted, for books and cases, and typed and edited manuscripts for 15 books, from a treatise on international environmental law to the most recent East West Street (2016 ) and The Ratline (2020). She shared thoughts on the characters and themes, enriching each book.

She was a first sounding board, a trusted colleague and a friend who offered an important contribution on issues close to her heart. A few weeks before her death, she was still working on my next Chagos book, The Last Colony, and was immortalized by Martin Rowson in one of his illustrations for the book.

Louise was a really decent person, intelligent and warm, full of humor and generous, discreet and completely reliable.

Maú died in 2007. She is survived by their sons, Gabriel and Rafael, her siblings, Caroline and Edward, and her mother, Barbara.

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