320/12–1351: Telegram

The United States Representative at the United Nations (Austin) to the Secretary of State


Delga 641. Re: Southwest Africa. We noted from Pretoria’s 155 to Dept, Dec 6, Forsyth’s insistence that South Africa was being deprived of its legal rights in UN concerning SW Africa. Forsyth appears to have maintained that Fourth Comite action in inviting Herero chiefs and reps to Paris was in violation of court’s opinion on SW Africa. Both Forsyth in Pretoria and South African del in Paris have based their walkout from Comite Four on what they contend is illegal action of Fourth Comite.

According to South Africans, action is illegal because under mandate oral petitions were not permitted in League of Nations practice, and no oral hearings on written petitions were permitted. South Africans appear entirely to overlook fact that GA in considering SW Africa item is doing more than simply exercising internati supervision of South Africa’s mandate administration over SW Africa. We of course agree that GA in exercising such supervision shld fol ICJ opinion under which UN supervision of mandate administration is to fol League of Nations pattern; under League of Nations practice, there were no oral petitions or oral hearings on written petitions. But GA is considering item which also includes problem of future status of Southwest Africa, which under ICJ opinion is status that can be modified only by agreement between South Africa and UN.

In considering latter aspects SW Africa item, GA and its comites are obviously entitled, in accordance with long-standing practice, to invite individuals to GA session for purpose of making statements to Comite Four and presenting views which comite might find relevant in its discussions. Believe we shld make it entirely clear to South Africans that in US view, South African assertion that Comite Four illegal action is groundless and can constitute no basis whatsoever for South African walkout from comite. South African govt may be under impression that US agrees with it on this issue or at least believes there may be some merit in South African view. Any such thought on part of South African Govt shld, it seems to us, be effectively dispelled.

Suggest, therefore, Dept may wish to instruct Embassy Pretoria to discuss matter further with Forsyth, for purpose of explaining to him US views on legality of Fourth Comite action in inviting Herero chiefs and reps. We believe Union legal position on Fourth Comite action, to effect that South Africa is being deprived of its legal rights by unconstitutional action of comite, may be serious obstacle to achievement of our primary objective at this time with respect to SW Africa, [Page 710]which is acceptance by the Union of the ICJ opinion. We wld hope that if South Africa cld be shown that their legal position was not sound, or at least that it was not shared by other UN members, such as US, South Africa might be more ready to accept ICJ opinion.

We note from report of conversation with Forsyth that he referred to Moroccan item in GA as example of how improper agenda items were definitely disposed of when western great powers were determined to stand together on an issue concerning non-self-governing territories. It might be well in this connection to point out to Forsyth that action taken by GA on Moroccan item has simply been to postpone consideration for present. This action was taken by GA on basis of definite statements made to Assembly by responsible French ministers concerning a program of evolution which French Govt was determined to push ahead in Morocco. It cld be pointed out that South Africa on the other hand, instead of announcing any progressive programs relating to such GA items as Southwest Africa and the treatment of Indians in South Africa, for three years proclaimed its intention to try to turn the clock back and institute in the territories under the control of the South African Govt a political and social system which the great majority of UN members find contrary to the purposes and aspirations of the UN in the field of human rights and incompatible with the obligations of members under Article 55 and 56.

Sent Dept Delga 641, rptd Pretoria 3.