Prominent human rights lawyer Philippe Sands QC is to be the new president of English PEN, taking over from Maureen Freely.
Sands is professor of law at University College London and also an author, most recently of East West Street (W&N), which won the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction 2016 as well as the 2017 Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger in France.
Sands has served on the board of English PEN for the past five years. His presidency will now run up to the centenary of the freedom of expression charity in 2021. Freely meanwhile will continue in the role of the charity's Chair of Trustees.
Sands said he felt "honoured" to take on his new role at the organisation. "In the UK and around the world, intolerance and division and other threats to freedom of expression, and the wellbeing of writers, are on the rise, which means the work of English PEN and our colleagues in the global network of PEN centres is more important and relevant than ever. I look forward to working with all our members to promote English PEN’s values and projects here and around the world."
Meanwhile Freely commented: "I am delighted to be handing over the presidency of English PEN to Philippe Sands. He is a writer of distinction – one of the most important voices in the literary world today – and a staunch defender of human rights and free speech. I can think of no better figurehead for the organisation as we approach PEN’s centenary year in 2021."