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J. D. B. News Letter

March 27, 1929
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The attitude of Anglo-Jewry’s committee which concerns itself with conditions of the Jews in other countries toward the proposed changes in the procedure of the submission of minorities’ petitions to the League of Nations was outlined in a letter addressed by Lucien Wolf, secretary of the Joint Foreign Committee, to Sir Austen Chamberlain, British Minister, representative to the Council of the League of Nations, and with M. Adatchi, Rapporteur on Minorities, and Senor Quinones de Leon, Spanish representative, appointed to study the proposals before the Council’s June session. The full text of the letter is herewith given.

Referring to Senator Dandurand’s proposal, Mr. Wolf wrote:

“The method he suggests for the transmission of petitions, it is pointed out, was proposed substantially in the same form by the Polish Government in 1923, but it failed to secure acceptance by the Council. On that occasion the Joint Foreign Committee communicated their views, which were in substantial agreement with those of the Council, to the late Marquis Curzon of Kedleston. I am directed to say that the Committee see no reasons to modify the views therein expressed. One addition, however, they desire to make. M. Dandurand is apparently of the opinion that the right of direct appeal to the League of Nations at present enjoyed by the Minorities is unfair to the ‘Governments concerned,’ as they are thus denied an opportunity of redressing the grievances in question by friendly negotiation with the Minorities.

“This view does not appear to be borne out by the relations of the Minorities with their Governments during the last eight years. There has, indeed, never been a case of appeal to the League of Nations which has not been preceded by complaints by the Minorities to their Governments. The Joint Foreign Committee have had, perhaps, a larger experience in the matter of Minorities Petitions to the Council of the League than any other private organization, and they are able to state with confidence that it is only after every resource of direct representation and negotiation has been exhausted in their own countries, that the Minorities invoke their Treaty rights before the League. In these circumstances it does not appear necessary, or even desirable, that the few rights enjoyed by Minorities in their relations with the League should – at any rate for the present – be curtailed.

“Nor are the Committee,” the letter proceeds, ‘able to see that any advantage is to be gained by charging the whole Council of the League with the task of examining petitions, instead of leaving it, as at present, to the Committees of Three. Under the arrange- (Continued on Page 4)

“Nevertheless, it is true, as indicated by M. Dandurand, that the grievances of the minorities arising from the defects of the procedure are serious and well-founded, and that a failure to find a remedy for them may have deplorable consequences. Two of these defects have proved especially mischievous. The first is the exclusion of petitioning minorities from cognizance of the replies made to their petitions by the ‘Governments concerned.’ The second is the claim set up by the Committees of Three and allowed by the Council to deal finally with petitions and to absolve the ‘Governments concerned’ of blame without reporting to the Council. As all the proceedings of the Committees of Three are necessarily private, the petitioners in the majority of cases never hear what has been done to remedy their grievances or to prorect their Treaty rights, and they get the impression that those rights are disregarded and that the guarantee of the League has no real existence.

“The result is widespread minorities discontent throughout Eastern Europe. But that is not all. The application of these two rules by the Committees of Three seriously prejudices the work of the Committees themselves. At the best their powers of investigating the alleged Treaty infractions submitted to them are singularly limited. The ‘Governments concerned’ object to judicial inquiries on the spot, and the Committees hear no witnesses. They have to judge the cases before them on two documents only – the petitions of the plaintiff minorities and the ‘observations’ thereon of the ‘Governments concerned.’

“As the petitions are communicated to the Governments, while the ‘observations’ of the Governments are not communicated to the petitioners and therefore are never properly tested, it will be seen that the Committees must have the greatest difficulty in arriving at just and accurate conclusions. And yet it is on this basis that they assume, with the consent of the Council, to negotiate understandings with the ‘Governments concerned’ which are held to terminate the inquiries, but which are never formally communicated to the Council and consequently are never made public. As, in addition to this, there are no guarantees for the fulfilment of the understandings thus arrived at, it is inevitable that they should lead to grave miscarriages of justice, and in point of fact this has happened more than once.

“There should be no difficulty in the abrogation of these rules, since it can be done without impairing in any way the general structure of the procedure Indeed, to speak of actual rules is not quite accurate. They are really interpretations by the Secretariat and the Committees of Three of certain resolutions of larger scope, which have never been in terms approved by the Council. Moreover, during the first four years of the existence of the League they were unknown, and, in default of them, petitioners were duly made acquainted with the replies to their complaints, and the Committees of Three reported to the Council on all the receivable petitions submitted to them.

“There was never any demand for a modification of this obviously reasonable practice, and it is indeed doubtful whether the resolutions by which its abrogation was brought about were originally intended to have that effect. It is consequently to be assumed that the required amendments would not meet with any serious opposition. The two rules referred to constitute the cardinal defects of the present procedure. There can be little doubt that their repeal would go far to conciliate the discontented minorities, and to assure a more satisfactory execution of the Treaties.

“It is consequently not necessary, at this juncture, to indicate other desirable reforms, more especially as with the new spirit that is likely to arise from the more successful operation of the procedure as amended in accordance with the foregoing suggestions, these reforms will probably come of themselves. In the event of the Council preferring a more ambitious solution on the lines of M. Dandurand’s proposals, the Joint Foreign Committee trusts that, as in the analogous provisions of the Convention on Upper Silesia, an optional right to direct appeal to the League of Nations will be reserved to the minorities, and that the existing right of foreign organizations, akin to them in race or religion, to address the League on their behalf will be maintained,” the letter concludes.

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