A Tribute to Prof. Francois Houtart (7 March 1925 – 6 June 2017)
We are deeply saddened by the passing of Prof. François Houtart, dear friend to the Filipino people and other oppressed peoples of the world.
We were informed of his demise last 6 June 2017 by his colleagues at the Pueblo Indio Foundation in Quito, Ecuador, where he spent his last few but still very productive years. He was 92 years old. His friends wrote: “His light grew even more as he closed his eyes which were always open to see the reality of the most impoverished. He was in total peace, not making any noise, with the mission fully completed. He did everything, he gave his all. Just last night, he denounced one more time, together with a friend from Sri Lanka, the genocide against the Tamil and asked us for solidarity with them.”
We remember him best for his roles in the crafting and promotion of the 1976 Algiers Universal Declaration of the Rights of Peoples (Algiers Declaration) and as juror of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (PPT) two sessions on the Philippines.
He was one among the eminent signatories of The Algiers Declaration which clearly recognizes the indivisibility of individual and collective rights; the interrelations between economic, cultural, and civil and political rights; and the right of the oppressed peoples of the world to fight for their liberation.
During the first Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal on the Philippines held in Antwerp, Belgium in 1980, Prof. Houtart was a member of the distinguished panel of jurors that found the Marcos dictatorship guilty for gross and systematic violations of human rights. This landmark verdict, was very important in exposing and eventually isolating the Marcos dictatorship in the international arena.
View here: https://vimeo.com/105023430
The verdict of the second session was immediately transmitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, Switzerland and submitted further to other institutions and parliaments all over the world. Clearly, this session’s proceedings and verdict have provided a concrete tool for solidarity friends all over the world to come together and condemn the regimes of Bush and Macapagal-Arroyo. Many of the members of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) had their humble beginnings in 2007.
The last time that Prof. Houtart was able to visit the Philippines was in 2011 when he joined the first International Festival for Peoples’ Rights and Struggles held in Manila. He delivered a keynote address highlighting the multiple crises confronting the world, and emphasized the need for heightened international solidarity and cooperation.
He had wanted to go back and visit the Philippines even after then, but his health condition had made it difficult for him to do so. This did not deter him at all as he continued to express his solidarity with the struggles of the Filipino people as he sent video messages to the International Conference for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (ICHRPP) in 2013 and once again just in July last year (2016), at the International Conference on Peoples’ Rights in the Philippines (ICPRP), which also fittingly had been a celebration of the 40th year anniversary of the Algiers Declaration.
ICHRP joins the social movements and struggling masses all over the globe in giving honor to Prof. Houtart’s life and commitment to defend people’s rights and persevere in the struggle for social justice, freedom and democracy. Like Francois Houtart, we hope to uphold international solidarity, to our very last breath.
“The re-establishment of the fundamental rights of peoples, when they are seriously disregarded, is a duty incumbent upon all members of the international community.”
– Article 30, Universal Declaration of the Rights of Peoples
Dr. Angie M. Gonzales
International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines
International Coordinating Secretariat
Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal Second Session on the Philippines
March 2007, The Hague, The Netherlands