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Peoples in motion

An international conference on the right of people’s to self-determination and secession in Belfast has raised key issues about theory and practice across the globe.

An international conference on the right of people’s to self-determination and secession in Belfast has raised key issues about theory and practice across the globe.

The conference was co-sponsored by the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers, European Lawyers for Democracy and Human Rights (ELDH), CAMPACC and the Transitional Justice Institute (TJI) at the University of Ulster.

One speaker was unable to attend the conference, called “Peoples in Motion: Self-determination and Secession”. He is retired Professor Norman Paech, a leading activist in Haldane’s German sister organisation VDJ, and a former member of the German Parliament for Die Linke (the left party).

He was on board the Gaza flotilla vessel brutally boarded by Israeli special forces, and witnessed the massacre. His testimony after his return, on the BBC and elsewhere, has played a key role in undermining Israeli propaganda.  

For Haldane, Richard Harvey delivered a presentation on his life-long activism in self-determination struggles, especially in Northern Ireland. Bill Bowring also presented a paper, on Lenin’s pioneering contribution, following in the footsteps of Marx and Engels, to the right of peoples to self-determination.

For CAMPACC, Vicki Sentas of King’s College London, who has been a campaigner on human rights and “war on terror” issues in Australia, spoke on the impact of “terrorist organisation” laws on diaspora claims for self-determination

Two excellent presentations were made by leading scholars of self-determination. Catriona Drew of SOAS, whose book on self-determination and population transfers will soon be published, is another long-term participant in the struggles of Palestine and East Timor.

Ephraim Nimni of Queens University Belfast, is a political scientist who has published with Bowring, and is an Israeli citizen with a splendid record of anti-Zionism.

Contemporary self-determination struggles were brought to life by Haluk Gerger (from Ankara) on the Kurds; Urko Aiartza from the Basque Country who is already well known to Haldane audiences; Hèctor Lopez Bofill on the struggle of the Catalans and others; and finally Hassan Jouni from Lebanon, who spoke in very moving terms on the continuing tragedy of the Palestinian people. Tamil comrades also made a presentation.

On the Sunday, Colm Campbell organised a political tour of the Falls Road and Shankill Road, led by former prisoners – a fitting conclusion to a splendid event.

9 June 2010

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