Desmond Lorenz de Silva

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This article is about the British lawyer and QC. For the Sri Lankan entertainer, see Desmond de Silva.

Rt Hon Sir Desmond Lorenz de Silva, QC, KStJ (born 13 December 1939) is a prominent British lawyer, and former United Nations Chief War Crimes Prosecutor in Sierra Leone.


Desmond de Silva is of Sri Lankan and Anglo-Scottish origins and comes from a family of lawyers. He is the son of Fredrick de Silva, MBE, formerly Ceylon's ambassador to France and Switzerland, and the grandson of The Honorable George E. de Silva.


He married HRH Princess Katarina Karadjordjevic of Yugoslavia on 5 December 1987. She was the daughter of HRH Prince Tomislav of Yugoslavia and HRH Princess Margarita of Baden, a grand daughter of King Alexander of Yugoslavia and the 3x great granddaughter of Queen Victoria. They divorced on 6 May 2010. They have one daughter, Victoria Marie Esmé Margarita.[1] Desmond has one sister, Helga de Silva, whose son, Detmar Blow was married to the late Isabella Blow.


A graduate of Dulwich College Preparatory School and Trinity College, Kandy, Sri Lanka, de Silva is a senior associate member of St. Antony's College, Oxford. He is a Bencher of the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple.[citation needed]


De Silva was called to the Bar in the Middle Temple in London in 1964, and appointed Queen's Counsel in 1984. He is one of the most high-profile criminal Queen's Counsel in England. He is a member of the Criminal Bar Association and the International Association of Prosecutors. In 2002, the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed him Deputy Prosecutor for the Special Court for Sierra Leone, at the level of an Assistant Secretary-General. Annan later promoted him to the post of Chief Prosecutor at the higher level of Under Secretary-General in 2005. He brought about the arrest of Charles Taylor, former President of Liberia, who was convicted of war crimes at the Hague in 2011. From 1980-95, he was the elected councillor for the largest Ward in the City of London.[citation needed]

In 2003, de Silva was sent as envoy by the United Nations Development Programme to Belgrade to persuade Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica and his government to surrender indicted war criminals.[2][3]

De Silva's legal expertise includes war crimes, crimes against humanity, espionage, treason, drugs, terrorism, human rights, white-collar fraud and sports law. His clients have included Harry Redknapp, John Terry, Ron Atkinson, Hans Segers, Lawrence Dallaglio, Graham Rix, Lee Bowyer and Jamie Osborne. De Silva is a member of the Governing Council of the Manorial Society,=.[4] In October 2011, with the approval of Prime Minister David Cameron, de Silva was appointed to head a Review into collusion by the security services and other agencies of the state into the 1989 murder of the high profile Belfast lawyer Pat Finucane. The report was published on 12 December 2012, and acknowledged "a willful and abject failure by successive Governments";[5][6] however, Finucane's family called the de Silva report a "sham."[7]

On 23 July 2010 he was appointed[8] by the United Nations Human Rights Council to investigate Israel's interception of a Gaza-bound flotilla in international waters that led to 9 deaths.

In 2014 he was Chairman of an Inquiry into torture and executions of detainees in Syria. The Report produced went before the Geneva 11 Peace Talks into the civil war in Syria.


Sir Desmond was knighted in the 2007 New Year Honours, and is also a Knight of the Most Venerable Order of Saint John and a Knight Commander of the Royal Order of Francis I. He was sworn in as a Member of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom in October 2011.[9]


  1. ^ Blood Royal - From the time of Alexander the Great to Queen Elizabeth II, by Charles Mosley, published for Ruvigny Ltd., London, 2002 (p. 288); ISBN 0-9524229-9-9
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ [2]
  4. ^ Governing Council of the Manorial Society
  5. ^ De Silva, Rt. Hon. Sir Desmond (12 December 2012). "Pat Finucane Review: Executive Summary And Principal Conclusions". Retrieved 12 December 2012. 
  6. ^ Bowcott, Owen (12 December 2012). "Pat Finucane report: army handlers 'helped loyalist gunmen select targets'". The Guardian. Retrieved December 12, 2012. 
  7. ^ Bowcott, Owen (12 December 2012). "Finucane family denounce report as a 'sham'". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 December 2012. 
  8. ^ "UN rights body names team to probe Gaza flotilla raid ", Haaretz, 23 July 2010
  9. ^

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