International Federation for Human Rights

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

6) Links to politics

-The member organisations of the FIDH differ much from Amnesty International as they are involved in party politics, and they watch human rights in their own country. From this point of view, the articles 6 and 15 of the French LDH’s Constitution, tabled on the 4th of June 1898, have regularly been infringed, as they forbid taking part in electoral competition, and as they claimed that leaguers entering a government automatically had to resign. With a bit of irony in the context of the anticlerical organisation’s culture, Jean and Monica Charlot thus compare the League to the catholic Church, obviously with different opinions! “They both refuse to tell their followers for who they should vote. But they reduce their freedom of choice by forbidding certain parties: a Christian should vote on the Right, excluding the Radicals; members of the LDH should select democratic and secular candidates on the Left”. Actually, in western democracies, human rights leagues often look like parliamentary lobbies. Along with the Education League, the French LDH created in May 1984 an inter-group committee, Cidem (“Citizenship and Democracy”), which brought together its elected members in the Parliament. Generally speaking, the organisation is rather left-wing, though not communist. But it sometimes had bad relations with Socialist governments. In 1998, the Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin boycotted the centenary ceremony of the organisation and its colleague for Home Affairs, Daniel Vaillant, refused to meet with the League to discuss about police enforcement and illegal immigrants.
-The links of the French LDH with left-wing circles of power has a lot to do with personal contacts, more than an institutional relationship. The organisation included people like admiral Antoine Sanguinetti (1917-2004), who was a leader for the Socialist Party during local elections in Toulon in March 1977 and who was restored in his position in the army by socialist minister of defence Charles Hernu in March 1983. Closed to the Movement for Peace (linked to the French Communist Party), Admiral Antoine Sanguinetti was against both the US Pershing and the Soviet SS20 missiles, as well as the resumption of nuclear experiences by President Jacques Chirac in 1995. He criticised a foreign politcy which, according to him, served the interests of the Americans. In France, he supported the peasants who struggled against the establishment of a military camp in the region of Larzac, he denounced the neglect of the government in Corsica and he participated to the creation of an organisation, Ras l'Front, against the far right in 1990. As a member of the FIDH, he investigated military abuses by the Argentinian junta in 1978. Among the presidents of the French LDH, there were also many barristers from the PSU, as Henri Leclerc, Henri Noguères and Yves Jouffa. An exception which proves the “socialist” rule is Madeleine Rebérioux (1920-2005), who was excluded from the French Communist Party in 1969 after she participated to the creation of a dissident review, Politique aujourd’hui. A member of the MRAP (Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l’amitié entre les peuples), she fought against torture during the independence war in Algeria, launched a committee to support Maurice Andin in 1957, signed in 1960 a manifesto for draftees to resist the call up, and opposed the American war in Vietnam in 1965. She was one of the few presidents of the French LDH not to be a lawyer. This is quite rare in an organisation where jurists, including judges and law professors, represent up to one half of the central committee in the 1970-1990s; before, such a proportion used to correspond to teachers. The militants of the French LDH, in majority persons working in the public sector and having been to university, are very involved in local community life: more than 90% of them have been or remain members of trade unions, associations or political parties. Most of them vote for or are members of the socialist party. According to a survey made between 1994 and 1996 and quoted by Eric Agrikoliansky, none of them claim to have belonged to a right-wing party.