Louise Rands Silva obituary

Louise Rands Silva, who has died of cancer aged 57, worked as my assistant for nearly 30 years, on cases, books and a myriad of other activities relating to matters of international law and justice. She also had a strong commitment to community engagement, working in parallel in education, for Sure Start, as a forest school leader, at a school working with children with behavioural difficulties, and as a teaching assistant at 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 she 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, Oxford University, to study English literature. She moved to Brazil, to teach English as a foreign language, returning to London to work as a paralegal at a Brazilian law firm.

In 1992 I employed Louise at the Foundation for International Environmental Law and Development at Soas University of London. There we worked together on projects about 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 case on the legality of the use of nuclear weapons which ruled that environmental protection was now part of international law. While there, Louise took a part-time master’s degree at Soas, in South American development studies.

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

In 1993 she married Maú de Jesus Silva, a guide and musician whom she had met in Brazil, and later they 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 forest school leader, taking children into the outdoors to help them understand the wonders of the natural world. In later years she worked with refugee families in north Devon, teaching English.

Over this entire period, Louise and I never stopped working together. She transcribed every interview I conducted, for books and cases, and typed and corrected the manuscripts of 15 books, from a treatise on international environmental law to the more recent East West Street (2016) and The Ratline (2020). She shared thoughts about characters and themes, enriching every book.

She was a first sounding board, a trusted colleague and friend who offered significant input on the issues she cared about. A few weeks before her death she was still working, on my forthcoming book about Chagos, The Last Colony, and was immortalised by Martin Rowson in one of his illustrations for the book.

Louise was a truly decent person, smart and warm, humorous and generous, understated and utterly reliable.

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


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