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Rene Cassin Says He is Not Completely Pessimistic About Future of UN and Peace

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At age 82. Nobel Peace prize winner, President of the Alliance Israelite Universelle, and vice-president of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights since 1946, Professor Rene Cassin exhudes the vitality and exhuberance of youth. Although he declines to view himself as an optimist he insists “I am not a pessimist, not a complete one” about the future of the UN, emerging nations and the possibility of peace. In an interview in the April issue of Penthouse which describes itself as “the international magazine for men”, M. Cassin states he has no “grand design” for establishing peace. He tells his interviewer, Paul Tabori, that he has chosen for himself “the limited sector of universal human rights” and adds: “If we succeed in establishing at Strasbourg–as we do within the next few months–an international institution for the defense and support of human rights, an institution independent of various governments…we shall have made an important step forward.”

Professor Cassin rejects the view that working for peace “is a waste of time” despite the paucity of conflicts and wars. He acknowledges that “we will always face a future of shocks and jolts.” Nevertheless, he insists that “What we can do is to reduce to a minimum these cataclysms and upheavals and seek a guiding principle that permits evolution and self expression without destruction.” He notes that the various institutions created for this purpose “are still very feeble. U Thant (Secretary General of the UN) has every reason to complain often that many conflicts are not brought, or are brought too late into the jurisdiction of the United Nations.” Even when these disputes are brought into the UN. M. Cassin states, “they are not handled there in the way they should be handled.” Furthermore, he says, “I will not hide from you that I am not a pacifist in the sanctimonious sense of the word…The idea that one must fight for peace is not a false one.” M. Cassin declares that progress has been made in the past 20 years. “One cannot deny.” he asserts, “that the United Nations represents a step forward compared to the old League of Nations.” The League was merely a peacemaking and policing organization “but it had no machinery for developing life within peace. The United Nations’ aim is exactly to achieve this.”

Discussing the Declaration of Human Rights which he helped frame in his capacity as vice-chairman of the UN’s Human Rights Commission, Prof. Cassin notes that many nations have not yet ratified this document. “In fact,” he states, “we cannot even speak about the violation of this international agreement, for, as far as most countries are concerned, the agreement is not in force.” He observes that the Soviet Union has not ratified the Declaration and has, until now, refused to sign any treaty to this purpose. “So how can we expect the Soviet authorities to respect the Declaration of Human Rights? My own country, France, is in the same position, like so many others, at this moment it doesn’t look as if she will ratify the Declaration.” M. Cassin notes that “on the whole it is a good thing” that within the past 20 years or so some 60 states gained their independence. In some instances the creation of independent states, like those in Africa, “was a matter of simple justice.” Nevertheless, M. Cassin declares, “Personally I deplore that some extremely small states have gained independence. U Thant shares my view that these miniature countries, which are viable neither politically nor economically, cannot serve the cause for peace.” Prof. Cassin does not identify these nations. Realistically, Prof. Cassin concedes, “one cannot reserve the trend and abolish existing states, so I believe that one day we must create a twofold Assembly of the United Nations, one in which votes are apportioned not by country but by population, national income and educational level.”

GREAT POWERS SCORED FOR SUPPLYING ARMS TO SMALL NATIONS AT WAR OR PLANNING WAR

Discussing whether the veto power by the big powers in the UN is an obstacle to peace, he states, “I am in favor of limiting the veto in certain matters. But it cannot be abolished. After all, there are groupings of nations that are more powerful than others, which have overwhelming responsibilities.” But, M. Cassin adds, that in the Assembly “voting results are often irresponsible, impulsive, so how can you expect nations that take their responsibilities seriously to obey such votes? Even the Security Council has often voted resolutions apportioning blame, giving orders that were unjust and far from reasonable…” Prof. Cassin scores the amounts spent on armaments as “outrageous”. It is “Scandalous that the Great Powers supply arms to the smaller nations who are at war or who are preparing for war.” But, he adds, peace will not be achieved by total disarmament. Instead, he advocates the development of “regional authorities which can dispose of certain arms and men…Call it international police or a United Nations peacekeeping force…”

Focusing on the role of non-governmental organizations in the achievement of human rights, M. Cassin observes that “at this moment we are going through a crisis because the United Nations is in the process of reversing the status of non-governmental organizations. The intention is to downgrade them all.” There are some members of the UN, which M. Cassin does not identify, that would like to deprive these organizations of their consultative status “because they find them embarrassing, bothersome, too insistent that certain countries should put their houses in order…”

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