International Federation for Human Rights

Fédération internationale des ligues des droits de l’homme - Comments

2) The way it works

-The FIDH has a long and rich history. It defends human rights via five mechanisms: advertising through public calls or press releases; establishing facts and commissioning investigations to monitor and report on abuses; supporting legal actions in front of national or international courts, especially regarding crimes against humanity thanks to the principle of universal competence; lobbying (with representations in Brussels and Geneva) in the intergovernmental organisations (United Nations Economic and Social Council, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, Human Rights Committee at the Council of Europe, International Organisation of Francophone Countries, International Labour Organisation, European Union, African Union, Union of American States); promoting seminars and workshops to strengthen the civil society in states engaged in a democratisation process.
-Unlike Amnesty international, the FIDH does not publish an annual report on human rights in the world. On an ad hoc basis, it rather organises field investigations that usually last between three days and three weeks. The FIDH sends volunteer professionals, mainly lawyers. Its code of conduct defends principles of objectivity and precision. According to the FIDH, “no information has ever been invalidated, despite many attempts of disparagement, discredit or intimidation”. Unlike Amnesty International, the reports are not submitted to the governments before they are published, and the observers (usually three or four instead of one in the 1970s and 1980s) can enter a country illegally. Some of them have been expelled, for instance in 2002 in Israel and in 1997 in Mexico, during an investigation on the violations of human rights in Chiapas. Some others were banned from countries, as in Tunisia and in Mauritania, or could not get a visa, as in Cameroon, Belarus and Algeria. The chairman of the FIDH, Patrick Baudoin, a lawyer, was for instance turned back from Tunisia in 1996, 2000 and 2004. In authoritarian regimes, members of the FIDH network are even more vulnerable: some of them were beaten, imprisoned or even killed, like Abdel Hareth Madani, a barrister for the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights, Youssef Fathallah, the president of the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights, Maria Lucia Leon Nunez, from the Comisión de Derechos Humanos de El Salvador, and Joseph Behidi, the vice president of the Chadian League of Human Rights. As for the president of the Turkish League for the Defence of Human Rights IHD (Insan Haklari Dernegi), Akin Birdal, he narrowly escaped a murder attempt on 12 Mays 1988.
-A public utility recognized by a French decree dated September 27th 1983, the FIDH plays a complementary role in relation to NGOs which, in war-torn countries, supply material assistance and put their relief operations in danger when they inform against the abuses they witness. Regarding investigation, the Federation sometimes co-operates with such charities, as in May 2002 and May 2004 with MDM in the Palestinian territories occupied by the Israeli army. Because it seldom has a free access to prisoners or victims, the FIDH thus gathers indirect testimonies: published on the 17th of July 2003, its report on Palestinian political prisoners, for instance, synthesized evidence collected from thirteen local NGOs. Sometimes, the FIDH also works with other human rights organisations, like Human Rights Watch in the United States about Rwanda after 1994 or Memorial in Russia about Chechnya in 2000. Generally speaking, however, the Federation deals mostly with its correspondents or affiliated members. Most of its investigations are started on their request.