FIDH is founded by some twenty national organisations on the initiative of French and German member organisations. It is the first international human rights organisation. Its motto is: “Peace for human rights.”
FIDH proposes the creation of an “International declaration of human rights” and an International Criminal Court.
FIDH adopts an additional declaration touching, in particular, on the rights of mothers, children and the elderly, the right to work and to social security, leisure and an education.
FIDH joins the fight against Nazism. Its chairman, Victor Basch, is assassinated by members of the Vichy government militia in Lyon.
Dispersed or forced underground during the Second World War, FIDH reforms after the war and develops its human rights activities. It launches its first fact-finding missions and judicial observation missions. FIDH’s positions are supported by accounts gathered from victims by its officials on mission. Two of its most eminent leaders, René Cassin and Joseph-Paul Boncour, help draft the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
FIDH expands its field of activities, particularly within the United Nations. Its fact-finding missions become more diverse and are supplemented by more intensive activism within international organisations.
The fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War mark a major step forward in the development of national human rights NGOs across the world. FIDH supports this development within the framework of legal cooperation programmes in political transition contexts in Eastern Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa and the Middle East, and Latin America. The number of FIDH member organisations increases from 66 to more than 100. In 1990, FIDH brings together, in Prague, for the first time, all of its members and partners from Eastern Europe, who are finally free from dictatorship. In 1997, it holds its first International Conference in a southern country, in Dakar. This conference underlines the urgent need to combat the flagrant human rights violations resulting from economic globalisation.
FIDH holds its conference in Morocco. The application of the principle of responsibility to perpetrators of human rights violations, whether states, companies, institutions or individuals, lies at the heart of the movement’s actions. During this conference, the first chair of FIDH from a southern country - the Senegalese lawyer Sidiki Kaba - is elected.
The International Criminal Court enters into force. It is the culmination of one of FIDH’s longest campaigns.
The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to Shirin Ebadi, an Iranian lawyer and long-standing partner of FIDH, honouring the day-to-day commitment to victims shown by human rights defenders.
FIDH takes a public stand against the execution of the former Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, and deplores the fact that a historic opportunity to judge the crimes of Saddam Hussein according to the principles of a fair trial turned into a parody of justice.
A complaint for torture and maltreatment in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib is lodged against the former American Secretary of State for Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, in an attempt to combat high-level impunity. The same year, Souhayr Belhassen, a Tunisian journalist and human rights defender, becomes the first woman (what’s more, an Arab/Muslim woman) elected as the chair of FIDH.
On 4 March 2009, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issues an arrest warrant for the Sudanese president, Omar el-Béchir. This decision marks a crucial stage in the development of international justice. It is, in fact, the first time since its creation in 2002 that the ICC has issued an arrest warrant against a sitting president. FIDH was particularly committed to this brief: by performing fact-finding missions and calling for the United Nations Security Council to bring the matter before the ICC, it helped ensure the opening of an enquiry and the issuing of arrest warrants against the most senior members of the Sudanese government - including President Béchir.