International League for Human Rights

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The International League for Human Rights has worked to keep human rights at the forefront of international affairs and to give meaning and effect to the human rights values enshrined in international human rights treaties and conventions. The League's special mission for 62 years has been defending individual human rights advocateswho have risked their lives to promote the ideals of a just and civil society in their homelands.
Based in New York, with representation in Geneva and dozens of affiliates and partners around the world, the League is a non-governmental, non-profit organization now in its 62nd year. The League has special consultative status at the United Nations, the Council of Europe, and the International Labor Organization, and also contributes to the Africa Commission and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). With the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights as its platform, the League raises human rights issues and cases before the UN and other intergovernmental regional organizations in partnership with our colleagues abroad, helping to amplify their voices and coordinate strategies for effective human rights protection.[1]

Critical Appraisal of some ILHR controversies

International League for Human Rights was founded in 1942 by civil rights activist Roger Baldwin, the International League for Human Rights (ILHR, formerly the International League for the Rights of Man) “pioneered in the efforts to create the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” The League’s stated goal is to “advance the human rights law and to secure redress for those whose rights are violated.”
The League’s record evinces a double standard, where Israel and the Palestinians are concerned. Coverage of violations of Palestinian human rights is minimal, and adopts the Israeli government’s point of view and terminology. For instance, the Annual Report of May 1972 discusses human rights abuses in some 25 countries, including Iran, Syria and Turkey in the Middle East.
In the case of Syria, the League protested the arrest of 12 Jews for trying to leave the country in late 1971. Except for summary executions, worse cases of human rights abuses (all well-documented) were taking place under Israeli rule in this period. Yet, Israel and the Palestinians are not mentioned at all in the 1972 Report, even though detailed information on human rights abuses in the occupied territories was reaching the League from its Israeli affiliate.
1973 was one of the rare times when the League’s annual report covered Israel and the Palestinians. Brief mention is made of League’s President Jerome Shestack’s investigation of prison conditions “for terrorist prisoners at Neve Tirza and Ramle prisons in Israel” (emphasis added). The term “terrorist” is found only in reference to Palestinian prisoners. In contrast, the League’s Annual Review for 1976-77 refers to Zimbabwean “freedom-fighters,” while another report mentions 227 Kurds who were executed in 1976, “presumably for their involvement in activities banned by the Iraqi authorities”.
In its Annual Report for 1976-77, the League returned to Shestack’s conclusion regarding prison conditions in Israel: despite “certain departures from the standards,” he found “substantial conformity to UN Standard Minimum Rules for Treatment of Prisoners” (p. 12).
Evidence readily available from Israeli and other sources indicates Shestack and the League were less than candid in their coverage of the prisoner issue. In February 1977, months before the League’s report went to press, the Israeli Commissioner of Prisons, Chaim Levi, publicly admitted that “the overcrowding of the prisons has reached intolerable levels.” Levi pointed out that in some Israeli prisons Palestinian prisoners have less than one square meter of living space each. The problem of prison crowding in Israel had been raised by the International Red Cross as early as 1970 and again in September 1977, when it suggested that commissions of inquiry be established to examine prison conditions. Amnesty International also took up the issue in 1977.
The obvious reluctance of the League to question seriously Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights in the face of mounting evidence appears consistent with Shestack’s pronouncement during a 1975 visit that “Israel has a very creditable record as an occupying power, but that its own citizens need a Civil Liberties Union”.
The record suggests that the League has not only consistently disregarded evidence of Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights, but “has been careful to insulate itself from this information”. On April 20, 1973, the International League’s executive committee voted unanimously to disaffiliate its Israeli affiliate – the Israel League for Human and Civil Rights. The Israel League, especially after 1970 when Dr. Israel Shahak assumed the chairmanship, had been providing the New York-based League with massive evidence concerning violations of Palestinian human rights. The major pretext behind its disaffiliation, according to a May 9, 1973, letter Dr. Shahak received from President Shestack, was ostensibly a “controversy in the Israeli courts with respect to the recent elections” held by the Israeli League. This was a reference to an attempted takeover of the Israeli League on November 16, 1972, by several hundred members of the Labor Party youth group who, on party orders, attempted to join the Israel League en masse, expel its elected leaders, and subvert its work in the area of Palestinian human rights. An Israeli court promptly upheld the legitimacy of Shahak’s executive committee and declared the decisions of the takeover meeting null and void. The International League has not retracted its decision, offered an apology, or restored the Israeli League’s affiliation.
— Nabeel Abraham, et al.; International Human Rights Organizations and the Palestine Question, Middle East Report (MERIP), Vol. 18, No. 1, Jan.-Feb. 1988, pp. 12 – 20. About ten footnotes that otherwise would have appeared in this section of the article have been deleted in the above text. The footnotes are available in the online article.

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  1. A Proxy State, International League for Human Rights, accessed July 21, 2007.