René Cassin, teacher of hope

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Undated photograph of French jurist and Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1968, René Cassin, who was one of the editors of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and an important contribution to its adoption by the United Nations on December 10, 1948 in Paris. René Cassin was also president of the European Court of Human Rights.
Undated photograph of French jurist and Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1968, René Cassin, who was one of the editors of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and an important contribution to its adoption by the United Nations on December 10, 1948 in Paris. René Cassin was also president of the European Court of Human Rights. STF / AFP

The year 2018 is not only that of the centenary of the Great War. It is also the year of the triple anniversary for the one who was one of the first to join General de Gaulle in London, the one who participated in the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, the one that contributed to the work of editing of the Constitution of the Vis Republic of 1958 and the man who received, in 1968, the Nobel Peace Prize for his tireless efforts in favor of democracy and fundamental rights. And these events must be celebrated for what they brought us as much as for the messages they continue to bring. Because there is in the work and in the life of René Cassin (1887-1976) the incarnation of a fierce defense of human rights in favor of peace.

"Our Declaration presents itself as the most vigorous, the most necessary of the protests of humanity against the atrocities and oppressions of which millions of human beings have been victims over the centuries, especially during and between the wars." Thus, René Cassin was speaking at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris on December 9, 1948, to present to the UN General Assembly the project of which he was the rapporteur and which was adopted the following day, December 10, 1948, only seventy years does.

Against the "Leviathan state"

This Declaration bears an objective French stamp, that of a "Foot soldier of human rights", as René Cassin liked to define himself. The main contribution of this former companion of the Resistance, designer of the agreements of August 7, 1940, who legitimized France free and recognized the authority of General de Gaulle, is to have contributed to writing a text of universal scope applicable to all, at any time and in any place, without any discrimination. The anchors of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the world ordered the defense of fundamental rights and, above all, the protection of individuals against this "Leviathan state" that René Cassin denounced. The universality it claims for this Declaration makes it an instrument that, for the first time, places universal values ​​of respect for rights above states and laws. Nobody can be deprived of human rights!

This declaration also inspired the European Convention on Human Rights signed on November 4, 1950 in Paris. René Cassin has never ceased to campaign for the ratification of France, which he will finally make on May 3, 1974. For the former vice-president of the Council of State, there was really nothing worse than seeing the proclaimed rights remain unenforced. Otherwise, these proclamations, however generous, no longer have the value of the tapestry to which the Queen of Ithaca dedicated her days and which, each night, she dissolved. "A simple Penelope weaver of pacts …"

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