International Federation for Human Rights

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


-1950, Korea: the French LDH condemns both the communist attack from the North and the American military intervention in the South. Yet its positions seem to be a little biased because it advocates an atomic disarmament when the Soviet still do not have the bomb. Actually, the LDH supports communist guerrillas in Greece in January 1947, opposes the rearmament of Western Germany in February 1951 and gets mobilized in February 1953 to try (in vain) to save Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, executed in the United States after being accused of giving military confidential documents to the USSR.
-1952, United States: chaired by Joseph Paul-Boncour (1873-1972), who also seats in the French LDH’s central committee and who was a member of the government during the Third Republic (an independent socialist representative and senator, he was minister of Labour in 1911, Defence in 1932 then Foreign Affairs in 1933, 1934 and 1938), the FIDH is given a consultant status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), where it meets up with the International League for the Rights of Man. A member of the ECOSOC since 1947, the ILHR will earn many attacks from the USSR because it defends human rights in communist countries and some Eastern European political exiles sit on its board. It will have to fight hard to keep its consultant status with the ECOSOC in 1967 then in 1978.
-March 1953, Germany: the FIDH sends to West-Berlin a team to investigate the exodus of over 100 000 Jews who are fleeing the discriminatory measures taken against them in the soviet zone of occupation. Nevertheless the Federation isn’t the most active concerning human rights violations in East-Europe. In France other initiatives compensate this. Author of a book on “the world of the concentration camps” (L’univers concentrationnaire), David Rousset, for instance, launched in the Figaro littéraire on the 12th of November 1949 an “appeal to former deportees in Nazi camps” to denounce the soviet gulag,. In Brussels on the 10th of October 1950, he then founded the CICRC (International Commission against Concentration Camps). Short of being able to go and investigate in Siberia, this Commission gathers together the testimonies of prisoners and puts together a White Book on the USSR in 1951. Authorised to visit prisons and camps in Spain and Greece in 1952, in Tunisia in 1953 and in Algeria in 1957, it extends it inquiries but puts an end to such activities around 1960, after having published other White Books, on Spain, Greece and Tunisia in 1953.
-From March 1954, Belgium: dissolved during the Second World War, the LBDH, presided before the German invasion in 1940 by Emile Vandervelde, is set up again by French-speaking Brussellers, mainly jurists. Recognised in 1968 as being of public utility, it is very close to the government and always has ministers as well as MPs amongst its members (15 in Christian parties and 57 from the Labour and Liberal parties in 1958 for example). Financially it also depends a lot on public subsidies at a federal, regional and local level: the membership fees and business donations only represent respectively between 10% and 30% of its budget. Considering that governmental funds are only granted for a year at a time, Karim Cham wonders “to what extent this constant fear of losing its funding wheighed upon its public standings and its choices to defend them”. In fact the LBDH sets up in 1978 a Flemish sister organisation, the Liga Voor Mensenrechten, when the minister for Culture refuses to grant funds to an organisation which doesn’t have an independent Flemish branch. Likewise, the silence of the League as regards certain conflicts in the Near-East or in communist countries is explained by the wish to maintain fragile political equilibriums within an association which works through consensus and never uses a majority vote to decide its motions. Growing from 300 to around a thousand members at the start of the seventies, the LBDH nevertheless opens itself up to women, the Flemish, teachers, journalists and trade unionists. After Henri Botson and Georges Aronstein, Marc De Koch is, in 1973, the first Flemish president of the League. He refocuses the actions of the organisation on Belgium but without stopping the organisation’s involvement in important international crises.
-1955, France: the LDH is very close to the government of Pierre Mendès France, a member of the Radical Party and an old supporter of the League. Before his resignation in February 1955, Pierre Mendès France had negotiated in July 1954 the peace accord of Geneva to end the colonial war in Indochina and repatriate French troops. As soon as 1949, the LDH favoured independence for Vietnam… but within a French Union only. At this time, the LDH denounces social inequalities in the colonial world, but does not openly favour independence for Algeria, where a rebellion started in November 1954.
-1956, Hungary, Poland: the FIDH informs against executions of opponents after the Red Army occupied Budapest in October 1956. In Poland in September, it also criticises the trials in Poznán of the organisers of workers’ demonstrations in June 1956. Such positions parallel the French LDH which, on one side, asks the United Nations to investigate the Gulag in the USSR in June 1949 and, on the other side, condemns the military intervention of the United States in Guatemala in July 1954 and France and Britain in Egypt in October 1956.
-1957-1961, Algeria: after opposing the state of emergency declared by Edgar Faure in March 1955, the LDH criticises the colonial repression of the SFIO Government of Guy Mollet. The organisation, which denounced in April 1956 the use of torture by the French army, helps to publish a forbidden book on the matter, “La Question”, by Henri Alleg. In 1957, one of its members, the historian Pierre Vidal-Naquet, also launches a committee to support Maurice Andin, a young assistant from the Sciences Faculty in Alger, arrested and killed by the French military. The opposition of the LDH to the war in Algeria makes it possible to attract new militants and to renew its executive staff which, in the 1950s, is composed, between others, of René Barthes, a retired general governor of the colonies since 1948, and Lucie Aubrac, a resistant close to the communist peace movement. With René Cassin, Léo Hamon and André Philip, a few Gaullists also enter the central committee of the LDH.
-1958-1975, France: a journalist at Le Populaire between 1933 and 1939, a resistant, secretary general of the Socialist Party between 1944 and 1946, an SFIO representative between 1945 and 1958, and a minister of Labour and Social Affairs in 1947-1948, Daniel Mayer is elected president of the LDH. He protests against the risks that the new Constitution of the French Fifth Republic brings onto public liberties. The organisation thus advocates to vote against General Charles de Gaule at the referendum of 13 May 1958. Taking over after Emile Kahn, deceased, Daniel Mayer will remain the president of the LDH until 1975, when he will give up his position to Henri Noguères, the son of one of the only MPs who voted against full powers to Philippe Pétain’s Vichy regime in 1940. As a former member of a SFIO group opposed to the government of Guy Mollet’s Algerian policy, Daniel Mayer took part in September 1958 in the creation of a dissident body, the PSA (Autonomous Socialist Party), which will become the PSU (United Socialist Party) in 1960.