Prof. Francois Houtart, champion of people’s rights internationally and a long time friend of the Filipino people in their struggle for national and social liberation died of illness at the age 91 under the loving care of his Ecuadorian comrades. We convey our most heartfelt condolences to his family and relatives, his colleagues and numerous friends all over the world.
Close friend of Italian Senator and renowned anti-imperialist Lelio Basso, Francois Houtart was a prominent official of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal. He was among the prime movers for the Algiers Declaration of 1976, The Universal Declaration of the Rights of Peoples. This was a landmark declaration. In its preample, it proclaimed, “May all those who, throughout the world, are fighting the great battle, at times with armed struggle, for the freedom of all peoples, find in this Declaration the assurance of the legitimacy of their struggle.”
In 1979, he and the Lelio Basso Foundation encouraged the Filipino people, through the National Democratic Front, to file an application to the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (PPT) to hold a Session on the Philippines. With persuasive efforts of the NDF, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) also filed an application and joined the NDF in the PPT Session on the Philippines.
In a landmark decision, the PPT declared the dictator Ferdinand Marcos guilty of grievous crimes against the Filipino and Moro peoples. The PPT recognized the NDF as the legitimate representative of the Filipino people. It further declared their armed struggle as having the conditions of belligerency which requires the application of international humanitarian law.
In 2007, Prof. Houtart, as the President of the Jury of the PPT Second Session on the Phiiippines held in The Hague, issued the verdict declaring the Arroyo regime and the United States of America guilty of grievous crimes against the Filipno people.
Prof. Houtart was also a staunch supporter of the Vietnamese people’s liberation struggle against the US imperialist war of aggression. He received a pair of sandals used by the famous Commnander of the Vietanamese People’s Army, Nguyen vo Giap. He donated these sandals, made from US planes shot down by the people’s army, to the New People’s Army. These were sent to the NPA who made similar sandals for the NPA fighters.
Earlier, Prof. Houtart visited the Philippines several times and gave well-appreciated lectures on Structural Analysis which exposed the structures of exploitation and oppression. On one visit, he was stopped at the airport, declared persona non grata and summarily expelled from the Philippines. This happened during the martial law regime of Ferdinand Marcos. After the overthrow of the dictator, he would be invited to speak at forums on human rights. He always felt it an honor to meet friends in the common struggle for freedom.
His colleagues in Ecuador, from the Foundation of the Indio People of Ecuador and 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 render highest honors to Prof. Francois Houtart, staunch champion of people’s rights, dear friend of the Filipino people and other peoples struggling for freedom, national and social liberation.
Long live the noble memory and inspiring legacy of Prof. Francois Houtart!