Tag Archives: Czech Republic

We have met the enemy and it is We (the Peoples)

by Rhodri C. Williams

Its now twelve years since the 9-11 attacks sent the post-Cold War human rights revival into a tailspin, and two years since the outbreak of what would quickly amount to civil conflict in Syria – where 70,000 have died and millions are displaced; where the international community cannot even pay for relief, let alone intervene to stop the regime from firing scud missiles into cities it purports to be defending; where the post-Ottoman Middle Eastern political order threatens to crack into pieces, risking the worst collective foreign policy failure since Bosnia, and where the ‘responsibility to protect’ doctrine has met an untimely and inglorious end .

So you might think we would all be pretty inured to a nip of salt with our humanitarianism these days. Not so, it seems. Its been a particularly bad run recently for those who still reflexively think the UN is part of the solution (hey, I’m with you) despite all better advice. I’m not quite sure where to start. Perhaps with the UN decision two weeks ago to assert diplomatic immunity for having failed to take measures to ensure that its peacekeepers’ latrines avoided triggering a devastating outbreak of cholera in Haiti. Particularly rich, as the Economist points out, coming on the same day as the UN pilloried Haiti for failing to hold its former dictator ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier accountable for his crimes.

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The Terezin Declaration and new guidelines on inter-generational restitution

by Rhodri C. Williams

A short note to announce an interesting development related to Holocaust restitution. Although the opening of archives and the softening of unenlightened political positions after the Cold War contributed to a surge in efforts to provide reparations to Holocaust survivors, former forced laborers and other victims of the Nazis, these have tended to comprise cash compensation, symbolic acts such as apologies and various forms of rehabilitation. Actual restitution of confiscated real estate has lagged behind, dogged by the usual problems facing inter-generational restitution (loss of witnesses and documentation, competing claims from bona fide subsequent purchasers, etc.) along with grim particularity that so many of the beneficiaries were murdered along with all potential heirs.

However, a little known achievement of the rather stormy Czech EU presidency last year was the convening of a ‘Holocaust Era Assets Conference‘ in Prague in order to “support Holocaust remembrance and education in national, as well as international, frameworks and to fight against all forms of intolerance and hatred.” While the work of the conference focused on a variety of topics from restoring looted art works to education and research, one of the goals set for the participants related more directly to lost property: Continue reading