Geneva (Dec. 25)
(By Our Geneva Correspondent)
The possibility, as reported in a previous correspondence, of the creation in the League of Nations of a Permanent Minorities Commission, similar to the Permanent Mandates Commission, for the protection of the minorities, is evidenced by the earnest consideration given at the last session of the League Council to various suggestions on the subject, among them one calling for the establishment of a federation of minorities, with certain autonomous rights.
The two outstanding achievements of the League of Nations have been the creation of the mandate system and the recognition of minorities. But whereas in the case of the mandate system a complete permanent machinery of supervision by the League and of administration of the mandated territories by the mandatory powers on behalf of the League, had been put into action, no such effective machinery had been provided for the protection of the minorities. The rights of the minorities were considered safeguarded by the inclusion of specific clauses in the Versailles Treaty and other treaties drawn up since then. But the failure of the majority of the governments which had signed the treaties for the protection of the minority groups in their territories to fulfil their obligations, has led some statesmen to the conviction that a Permanent Minorities Commission, based on the same principle as the Permanent Mandates Commission, with authority to consider complaints of minorities and to make the necessary adjustments, should be created in the League.
M. de Mello Franco (Brazil) in reading his report on the minorities question touched on some of the proposals made for the creation of a minority protection system.
“According to some views,” he stated, “it is necessary to recognize the right of the minorities to organize themselves, or right to autonomy-a right which might go so far as enabling them to constitute a kind of federation of minorities, with all the characteristics of a legal person as admitted in international law and with the option of coming forward de jure proprio as an interested party before the Council in the ordinary course of the procedure which enables the Council in each case to take a decision on the complaint against an infraction of any clause of the protecting treaties.
“The suggestion of the Hungarian delegate contemplates the institution of an entire procedure, with a hearing of evidence of both sides, as between the interested State and the representative of the minority concerned, the method and the rules to be followed being similar to those of the procedure in use for disputes between private persons in the ordinary courts.
“I do not think that this conception can be carried into effect without giving rise to dangers which would threaten the moral ends towards which the system of protection instituted by the Minorities Treaties is tending.
“It does not appear to me to be open to doubt that those who conceived this system of protection did not dream of creating within certain States a group of inhabitants who would regard themselves as permanently foreign to the general organization of the country. On the contrary, they wished the elements of the population contained in such a group to enjoy a status of legal protection which might ensure respect for the inviolability of the person under all its aspects and which might gradually prepare the way for conditions necessary for the establishments of a complete national unity.
“It is advisable to avoid these dangers, but it is also a necessary duty to protect racial or religious minorities against oppression or the disguised ill-will to which they may be exposed. If all the States are loyally inspired by the principles of the resolution adopted by the third Assembly on the proposal of Prof. Gilbert Murray, I think that the minorities will everywhere receive the same treatment of justice and toleration which is required by the Treaties, and which the permanent action of the Council seeks to secure for them.”