CYIL vol. 12 (2021)
jan kuklík CYIL 12 (2021) The first version of the procedure to handle petitions was presented by the Council of the League of Nations in detail in its Resolution from 25 October 1920, upon an initiative of Belgian delegate to the League of Nations and Chair of its first assembly Paul Hymans. 21 The procedure differed if it was submitted by a Member State (there was a very low number of such petitions), or by an individual or a legal entity. 22 The submitted petitions was first considered by the Secretariat General. If the petition satisfied some basic requirements it was referred further. The section in charge of minorities of the Secretariat General was responsible for such consideration; however, the legal and/or political sections could be involved. The minorities section was also responsible for the preparation of all relevant documents relating to a respective petition including relevant research in libraries and press. The section was a subscriber to more than 20 newspapers published primarily in states subject to minorities obligations; since 1923, it was preparing weekly summaries. Only then, petitions could be referred to the President of the Council and two members appointed by the President for consideration; this was the basis of the conception supported by Hymans of the so- called Committee of Three, also called the “Minorities Committee”. The petition should be commented on by the state against which the petition was directed, and member states should also be informed. Members of the Minorities Section of the Secretariat General of the League of Nations could ascertain the facts on site, i.e., to travel to the respective state to inspect the situation, but upon the approval of the government of the state concerned. In September and October 1921, the General Assembly debated the proposal of Professor Gilbert Murray, the South-African delegate, and submitted first to so-called First Committee of the Assembly; Professor Murray proposed that a permanent committee of the Council of the League of Nations should be constituted which would be responsible for the consideration of petitions and, if applicable, for site inspections. 23 However, the debates in the Assembly resulted in the withdrawal of the proposal by its author as it was concluded that the existing procedure within the Minorities Committee of Three was sufficient. Shortly thereafter however, Professor Murray put the practice into action that the Council was obliged to inform the General Assembly of their activities in the area of minorities rights as a special part of their regular report. In the beginning of 1921, the League of Nations received a document signed by the Austrian Union for the League of Nations; Czechoslovakia was accused in the document that it failed to observe its minorities obligations regarding its German-speaking population. The document was distributed by the Secretariat General among all member states in compliance with the adopted procedure, and gave rise to attempts on the Czechoslovak side to restrict such propaganda-based actions. On 4 June 1921, the Czechoslovak Government submitted an official letter signed by envoy V. Girsa to the Council of the League of Nations, proposing that a government affected with such claims should first provide its observation with respect 21 Ibid, Part I., p. 8. See also Zeidler, M.: The League of Nations and Hungarian Minority Petitions, In: Eiler, F., Hájková, D. et al: Czech and Hungarian minority policy in Central Europe , 1918–1938, Praha, Budapešť 2009, p. 90. 22 Scheu, H.: Role mateřských států v systému meziválečné ochrany národnostních menšin [ The role of home states in the system of post-war protection of national minorities ], Právněhistorické studie, N. 48/2, 2018, pp. 107–114. 23 Protection of linguistic, racial or religious minorities by the League of Nations. Resolutions and Extracts from the Minutes of the Council, Resolutions and Reports adopted by the Assembly relating to the Procedure to be followed in Questions concerning the Protection of Minorities, c.d., Part III, p. 239.
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