Past tragedy, present trouble & future hope – holding on to human rights – newsletter 29 August 2019

Posted on Tuesday, September 3rd, 2019


Dear Supporter

“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

This summer we have been acting on George Santayana’s wise words – remembering genocide, listening to the experiences of those who have escaped oppression, and sounding a warning that history is in danger of repeating itself.

On 2 August, René Cassin trustee Rabbi Alex Goldberg and I spoke at a gathering in London’s Hyde Park to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liquidation of the Roma camp at Auschwitz, when 2,897 Roma men, women and children were murdered by the Nazis.

In June we were in Parliament to mark Refugee Week. Our packed meeting heard moving first-hand accounts from Ruth Barnett, who arrived aged four on the Kindertransport, and Michael Darko who much more recently spent two years locked up in an immigration detention centre. Our message – end the inhumane practice of indefinite detention by introducing a 28-day limit.

Read our detailed briefing to last September’s Parliamentary inquiry into immigration detention.

We are alarmed at reports that China has forced around 1½ million Uyghur people into draconian internment camps in an attempt to ‘re-educate’ them out of their Muslim faith and Turkic culture. In May, we set up a public meeting with experts and representatives of the Uyghur diaspora and the Jewish community. As an outcome of the meeting, I attended Iftar (the breaking of the daily Ramadan fast) with members of the Uyghur community at Rabbi Alexandra Wright’s house. There is an ongoing weekly solidarity vigil outside the Cultural Section of the Chinese Embassy in Hampstead.

As well as remembering the past and its lessons for today, we are also looking to the future. In July, for the latest of our ‘roundtable’ events, we invited a number of leading lawyers, academics, campaigners, quango professionals, journalists, politicians and Jewish community leaders to discuss growing concerns over the status of socio-economic rights (e.g. to food, housing and healthcare) in the UK.

Rounding up those discussions in a blog, Professor Geraldine van Bueren QC concluded “… by not incorporating rights to food, water, healthcare, housing and an adequate standard of living we in the UK are not respecting the rule of law fully”.


There is no better way of building a better future than working today to inspire the human rights defenders of tomorrow. To that end, our flagship educational Fellowship Programme visited Budapest in May. Hungary is a country of poignant contradictions – a case study in the challenges of contemporary human rights. Having thrown off both Nazi and communist oppression to become a democratic republic in 1989, it is now sliding towards increasingly repressive and anti-democratic politics.

It was, inevitably, a bittersweet experience. We were horrified to hear first-hand reports of rising anti-Semitism and witness the exclusion and isolation of Roma community from mainstream Hungarian life. But we were also enormously inspired by, as one of our Fellows put it, the “… energy, hope and personal commitment of individuals to building community.

  • Universal Human Rights – founded on Jewish experience, inspired by Jewish values The foundation stone of international human rights law – 1948’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights – was a direct response to the horrors of the Holocaust.Academic and human rights activist, Professor Francesca Klug explores the origins of this landmark document, its roots in Jewish experience and the influence of Jewish values and authors on its vision for a better world. She asks: “What can today’s volatile world learn from the human rights pioneers who brought the Declaration to life?”Tuesday 10 September 2019, 7pm at The Liberal Jewish Synagogue, 28 St. John’s Wood Road, London, NW8 7HA

    Free event – all welcome, book your place(s) via Eventbrite

  • Campaign launch: ‘#CutItOut’ – countering hate speech René Cassin and the Traveller Movement invite you to the launch of our new campaign: ‘#CutItOut’ – part of National Hate Crime Awareness Week.Gypsies, Roma and Travellers share a history of persecution with Jewish people. Targeted by the Nazis during the Holocaust. Faced with open prejudice and official indifference. And now subjected to a rise in hate speech and online abuse.We are launching this campaign to raise awareness of the harmful consequences of hateful rhetoric against minority groups. As human rights defenders, we stand together against all forms of hate. We must #CutItOut.

    Speakers include Kate Green MP, co-Chair of All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gypsies Travellers and Roma; and Martin Gallagher, Irish Traveller activist and academic.

    Wednesday 16 October 2019, 5-7pm at House of Commons, Room 10, London SW1A 0AA

    Free event – all welcome, book your place(s) via Eventbrite

  • Conspiracy Theory: A Lizard’s Tale – with Marlon Solomon Marlon’s a Jew. This didn’t bother him much until he discovered that some people he knew didn’t believe the Holocaust happened. From 9/11 to shape-shifting lizards and Holocaust denial, this is a darkly comic tale of one man’s journey through the conspiracy underworld.Monday 9 December 2019, 7pm at JW3, 341-351 Finchley Road, London NW3 6ETTickets: £12-15 – book your tickets via the JW3 website

Help René Cassin apply the lessons of the past to the issues of today, to make a better world for tomorrow.

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René Cassin via our website at www.renecassin.org/donate/

Thank you

MHG signtaure
Mia Hasenson-Gross
Director

PS  If you have any comments or questions about any aspect of René Cassin’s work, I would love to hear from you – please email me via mia.hasenson-gross@renecassin.org


René Cassin is a registered charity, number 1117472