International Federation for Human Rights

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


-From 1931, France : the income of the LDH reaches one million Francs in 1931, up to 1.1 million in 1937, against 900,000 in 1927, 600,000 in 1924 and 400,000 in 1924. More than half of it pays the salaries of some fifty employees in the headquarters in Paris. Such a rise in human and financial resources raises some dispute because local sections must give to the central committee three fifth of their collected fees, yet do not feel they control the leadership. At the congress of Amiens in July 1933, for instance, they reject a project which was to limit their representation at the level of regional federations in order to limit the rising number of delegates. The organisation’s internal democracy is put into question. Local sections, explain Jean and Monica Charlot, do not write the agenda of the annual congresses. “The central committee is supposed to fix it according to the propositions of the majority. But many sections fail to give their advice… so the central committee always succeeds in pushing its own agenda. More important, it is the central committee which chooses its members, not the masses of the LDH… Candidates can be put in by the central committee, the regional federations or the local sections. But the central committee influences a lot the vote: those who hesitate tend to elect the candidates it recommends”. As a result, the central committee is co-opted and the happy few new members come in only when the old die or retire. After a first deficit of 180,000 French Francs in 1935, the League then looses members and has financial problems with the economic crisis and the failure of the socialist government of the People’s Front (Front Populaire) in 1937.
-1932, France: following pressures from the LDH and a first law voted on 9 August 1924, a special military court is established in 1926 and officially recognised by the Parliament on 19 March 1932 to revise the trials of the soldiers executed as an example, and accused of desertion, self-mutilation or spying during the First World War. Innocent persons are thus completely rehabilitated. Such a success shows how influent the organisation is. At the Legislative Assembly at this time, according to Ferdinand Ferlé, 16 parliamentary commissions are chaired by LDH members, who are the majority in 12 of them. The organisation has 12 adherents out of 18 ministers in the government of Edouard Herriot in June 1932, 9 out of 17 in the government of Joseph Paul-Boncour in December 1932, 10 out of 18 in the government of Paul Daladier in January 1933 and 11 out of 18 in the government of Albert Sarraut in October 1933. In total, the LDH is supported by 163 radicals and 116 socialists at the Legislative Assembly and the Senate.
-27th of February 1933, Germany: on the night of the Reichstag fire, the Nazis arrest the leaders of the Deutsche Liga für Menschenrechte, in particular its president Karl von Ossietzky, who will die in a concentration camp in May 1938 after being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1935. With more than 16,000 members in 1924, the German LDH was clearly engaged on the left side. After the war, it denounced the irregularities of political trials, the secret rearmament of the army and the apparition of paramilitary groups. During a referendum on the nationalization of big properties in 1926, it also contributed to the creation of a People’s Front. And in September 1930, it published a call against anti Semitism. Officially forbidden in March 1933, the leaguers will go in exile, some in the United States or in Turkey. In France they are welcomed with other German political émigrés by the LDH in Paris, collaborating with the International Red Relief and the French People’s Aid. The Liga für Menschenrechte will come back in Western Germany after 1945.
-1935-1938, France: after common demonstrations with the CGT (General confederation of labour) and the SFIO (French section of the workers’ international) in March 1933 and February 1934, the LDH supervises the signature, in its Paris headquarter, in 1935, of a pact between the left-wing parties, the trade unions and the anti fascist organisations which will form a collective body, the People’s Front, and get into power the next year. Victor Basch, the president of the LDH since 1926, leads the executive committee of the People’s Front. In 1936, he can therefore get the right to make a bimonthly programme, “the League’s Voice”, which is broadcast on the state radio from the Eiffel tower at peak listening time in 1938 (after the war, the organisation will also lead a weekly programme, from 1945 until 1958).
-14th-16th March 1936, Luxembourg: the sixth congress of the FIDH is organised in the capital city of Luxembourg by the local LDH, which opposes the economic union with Belgium and vainly asks for the inclusion of the dukedom in France since the 28th of September 1919 referendum (in which 73% of the people voted for such a solution, with no effect). The French LDH and the FIDH do not answer the Luxembourg section in one way or the other. At the congress, the Federation expresses its will to extend the notion of human rights. Against war, it defends in particular the “right to life”, including for the foetus during pregnancy, which concretely comes to forbidding abortion, as did the declaration of children’s rights presented by doctor Sicard de Plauzolles, from the French LDH, on the 27th of may 1927.
-1937, Spain: while the civil war opposes the republicans to the nationalists, the FIDH gets more and more involved against the troops of Francisco Franco. Victor Basch, for instance, heads a “solidarity commission” set up with the socialist party and the communist “Red Relief” (Secours Rouge) to support the international brigades. It is not the first time that the organisation intervenes in the country. As soon as 1903, the French LDH had requested a revision of the trials of the members of Mano Negra, an anarchist group in Andalucia. In 1909, again, it protested against the execution of Francisco Ferrer, an activist who was accused of stirring up an urban revolt in Barcelona. In 1927, eventually, it defended Buenaventura Domingo Durruti (1896-1936), an anarchist unionist that Argentina wanted extradited and who was to die during the civil war, five years after coming back from exile when the Spanish Republic was installed, in 1931. With more than 2,000 members in 1928, the Italian LDH is also extremely active in Spain. It was constituted in France in 1924 by exiled people who had to leave their country after Benito Mussolini and the fascists took over in Rome in 1922. Under the presidency of Luigi Campolonghi, it takes part in the international brigades and first sends a legion led by a member of its central committee, Mario Angeloni, who is quickly killed on the Spanish front. Then, it creates a Garibaldi Brigade with Randolfo Pacciardi, the president of the local section of the Italian LDH in Mulhouse. Invited by the republican government in Madrid, it occupies the consulate in Barcelona and the legation in Valencia, which enables it to deliver passports to the Italians in Spain.
-1938, France: the LDH splits in two between those in favour and those against the Munich treaty, by which France comes to terms with Adolf Hitler. In order to maintain a wide alliance against Nazism and Fascism, the League does not inform against Josef Stalin’s repression as well. In a report approved  by its general assembly in 1937 and published in the Cahiers des droits de l’homme on 15th November 1936, it even writes that the mock trials in Moscow are “fair” because “the confession of the suspects was heard by press correspondents from all over the world”. As a matter of fact, since the experience of the People’s Front, the League has become much politicised and only the left-wing press keeps publishing its releases —that is L’Œuvre, Ce Soir, Le Populaire (the SFIO’s newspaper), L’Humanité (the communist party’s newspaper) and Le Peuple (the CGT’s newspaper). As Moscow agreed to support the socialists against Adolf Hitler in Germany and Benito Mussolini in Italy, the FIDH got closer to the communists because they were now ready to cooperate with the LDH and even considered to merge it with the "Red Relief" (the Secours populaire de France et des colonies according to its new name). Of course, such a trend causes internal divisions that remind the annual congress of Rennes in 1909, when the LDH lost 30,000 out of 91,000 members because its central committee had supported a mail strike. In 1937, Jacques Kayser, a leading figure of the radical party, thus resigns to protest against the socialists’ rising domination within the organisation.