Dear ISHR Community,

It has been long since ISHR news landed in your inboxes but so much has been happening in the world of human rights some of which we will capture in this ‘bumper edition.’

Thomas Schirrmacher with the flag of Estonia © Martin Warnecke

Thomas Schirrmacher with the flag of Ukraine © Martin Warnecke

As we swing between unusual snowy weather and warmer temperatures in the northern hemisphere whilst southern hemisphere calls on cooler and rainy weather, the climate crisis is a living reality – whether we care to admit it ignore it. Promises of a fair recovery from Covid-19 and vaccine access to all in 2021 have revealed the deep-seated inequalities and world leaders collude with corporate titans to maintain power and profits. This hoarding of power has manifested itself in the absence of policies and practices that could grant vaccine patents, investment in social protection or tackling of the climate crisis.

Russian invasion of Ukraine this year serves as an urgent reminder of the human rights catastrophes committed by totalitarian regimes. It happened faster than many expected it and triggered unprecedented exodus of Ukrainians fleeing war. Not only is Russia violating the United Nations Charter by committing an act of aggression considered a crime under international law. Russia’s imperialist behavior confirms that conventional wisdom that autocracy is on the ascent whereas democracy on the decline. In many countries however, people notice that unaccountable leaders are self-centered and prioritize their own interests over those of the public’s. That war is not only about power but about amassing wealth at the expense of marginalized groups. Nonetheless, the demand for rights-respecting democracy remains strong. The work of human rights defenders is absolutely core in standing up to the shortcomings of democratic leaders who are not meeting the challenges they face thus leaving room for populist leaders to make empty promises.

This month and year, as we celebrate 40 years of ISHR and 50 years of our German section – IGFM, we salute the human rights defenders that make up our sections in over 30 different countries.

Originally we wanted to concentrate on our history, but the recent developments all around the globe has gotten most of our sections into everyday survival mode and proves, that ISHR is more needed NOW, than 40 years ago. All sections from in the wider realm of the Ukraine from Russia to Germany are busier than ever before. Armenia and Aserbaidschan are going back to war. Pakistan has a new Prime Minster with very light hope for some improvements. Iraq, Kurdish AR, our Latin American partners are somehow easily forgotten in times of a war in Europe, but they are up front more than ever. We have staff and board members in prison in Belarus, Cuba and some countries, where we have to keep confidentiality. We have many board members, staff and partners who had to flee their country and work from another country, even in Kenya. Thus it is vital, that ISHGR supports the human right defenders, who are in the frontlines of fighting for humanity.

We honor their work in fighting for democracy so that independent courts can function, press freedom, robust legislature and civil society that keeps the checks and balances in place. These human rights defenders like our colleagues in Ukraine led by Anton Aleksev carrying out court monitoring in Ukraine and Armenia and now offering humanitarian aid, or Olga Karatch from Belarus supporting women against repression and Wanjeri Nderu – a Kenyan activist who uses social media to mobilise people on issues such as constitutional rights, rape of male minors, extrajudicial killings amongst others.

We recently created a new section on our website where you can find out where the ISHR president is travelling. On the picture above, President Schirrmacher embraces the Estonian flag after a state visit on ways to collaborate in supporting Ukraine.

You can follow our ongoing campaign portraying human rights defenders on Twitter @IS_HumanRights and reach out to us with a human rights defender you would like to be amplified.

In solidarity.

Prof. Dr. Thomas Schirrmacher
President of the International Council of the ISHR

Ulrich Nitschke, Elena Lunz and Joan Okitoi
Managing Editors, ISHR Secretariat


Focus: UN General Assembly votes to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council

© UN News

The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on Thursday calling for Russia to be suspended from the Human Rights Council. The resolution received a two-thirds majority of those voting, minus abstentions, in the 193-member Assembly, with 93 nations voting in favour and 24 against.


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All hell is loose on the East

March 2022 marked one month since Russia launched attacks into the sovereign republic of Ukraine. Bombed into the incomprehensible reality of the new world order, into a rampant Russian war of aggression in Ukraine. A day before the Russian attack on February 24, 2022, ISHR/IGFM published a lengthy report entitled All Hell is Loose in the East. The article zeroes in on Putin’s political strategy. In the introduction, we quote American security expert Aleksander Vindman, who said in January 2022,

“I think it is almost certain that there will be a major European war on a scale comparable to that of World War II. With airstrikes, the navy, and attacks with ground troops.”

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Nasrin Sotudeh calls for peace in Ukraine

The lawyer, political prisoner and and member of the Board of Trustees of the International Society for Human RightsNasrin Sotudeh wrote a letter to the Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr. Antonio Guterres asking for the use of available international instruments to support the people of Ukraine and stop the aggressive acts of the Russian government against Ukraine. To read the letter, see the link below.

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From the Sections

© thegreats.co

Switzerland: Interviews on human rights

As ISHR turns 40 years and IGFM 50 years this year, the Swiss section is conducting a global survey of parliamentarians, political parties, ambassadors, business leaders, churches, artists and universities, allowing people of the most diverse beliefs and backgrounds to speak openly about their concerns about human rights issues. To read some of those interviews, please follow this link.

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IGFM Switzerland kicks off partnership with SolarButterfly

© SolarButterfly

The UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution in October 2021 recognizing the right to a healthy environment as a fundamental human right. The International Society for Human Rights – Swiss Section (IGFM) is concerned about the protection of the environment and recently partnered with SolarButterfly – a Swiss start-up founded by Swiss environmental activist Louis Palmer. SolarButterfly is an eye-catching structure that looks like a mobile house powered by numerous solar panels that produce enough energy to power a Tesla. Read on here IGFM Switzerland kicks off partnership with SolarButterfly (ishr.org) to find out about the partnership and the project (Idea – SOLAR BUTTERFLY).

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How did the government of Kosovo respond to the impact of the Covid-19 on the lives of women?

Riola Morina

IGFM Switzerland welcomes students from universities around the world to have their say and present their projects on human rights issues. On this year’s International Women’s day, the Swiss section published an article by Riola Morina – a student at the faculty of political sciences, University of Business and Technology (UBT) who answered the question, how has the Kosovo government responded to the impact of COVID-19 on women’s lives? Women make up almost 50% of the population in Kosovo. COVID-19 reinforced the concept of women staying at home; the stimulus package did not offer a solution. Read on to find out.

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Swiss Human Rights Award in 2022 goes to KIRIAT YEARIM in Israel

This year International Society for Human Rights – Section Switzerland – once again awarded a special prize of CHF 2,000.00 from the Swiss Human Rights Award in recognition of defense of human rights. This year’s winner is the KIRIAT YEARIM association, which runs a Swiss children’s village in Israel in particular.

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Lithuania: ISHR working group Wittlich in Germany: Another aid transport to Lithuaniafor Ukrainian war refugees

Barely rested from her three-week trip to Northern Iraq, during which she had to cope with another compact work program with ISHR Northern Iraq representative Khalil Al Rasho, and straight out of the new SWR-TV interview, the 81-year-old honorary chairwoman of ISHR Katrin Bornmüller grabbed got into action with her working group in Wittlich their 530th aid transport to Lithuania. This is now the second in a row to benefit Ukrainian war refugees there.     

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Ukraine: ISHR Ukraine moves from monitoring of courts to humanitarian work as war expands

Poltava, Zhytomyr, Kharkiv, Vinnytsia, Lviv, Korostyshiv, Kosiv … From project monitoring of fair trials to monitoring of humanitarian needs in the war region. ISHR – Ukraine has quickly adapted to doing humanitarian work since the beginning of the war. Led by Anton and Anastasija Alekseev from the information and analysis center of the ISHR-Ukraine, with whom we’ve worked for a decade, the two new parents fled from Kyiv to the Poltava region with their young family. Here is a summary of the new work they’ve embarked despite ongoing challenges.

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Moldova: ISHR Moldova provides humanitarian aid to Ukrainians fleeing war

Moldova may one of the poorest countries in Europe but this did not stop them for offering immediate help to Ukrainians affected by the war as shared by our colleague Gennadij Caunov. Moldova also welcomed one of the biggest groups fleeing the war.

“We focused on the families who arrived in the early days of the occupation. At that time, the state system of refugee aid had not yet been set up. And these people had to seek refuge with complete strangers who would provide them with their own rooms or suitable accommodation. Mostly mothers with several children.”

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Nicaragua: The new chipote (el nuevo chipote) – origins of a prison made to torture Nicaraguan dissidents

The president of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega, started his fourth term in a row after being “elected” on November 7th, 2021. He was the only option in the elections, since he started a strong persecution against all other seven presidential candidates that launched their campaigns legally on time. Cristiana Chamorro (arrested on June 2nd), Arturo Cruz (arrested on June 5th), Medardo Mairena (arrested on July 6th), Félix Maradiaga (arrested on June 8th), Juan Sebastián Chamorro (arrested on June 8th), Miguel Mora (arrested on June 20th) and Noel Vidaurre (arrested on July 24th) were all charged with mock crimes such as “treason” and “money laundering”. Five of them, except Cristiana Chamorro and Noel Vidaurre, were taken to the prison known as “el nuevo Chipote” (the New Chipote). Here is a detailed account of the facility and the human rights violations that occur there.

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Latin America: Are Moscow’s allies in Latin America switching sides?

Putin only got four yes votes in the UN general Assembly in support for its invasion in Ukraine: only Syria, Belarus, Eritrea, North Korea sided with Moscow. Did Moscow get the response it was expecting from its allies in Latin America? ISHR Nicaragua and Colombia weigh in on this matter.

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Events & Resources

Annual Report: Human rights defenders – Inspiring hope, shaping a fairer future

The last 18 months have been deeply challenging from a human rights perspective, with the COVID pandemic exposing and exacerbating inequalities, human rights defenders continuing to face deadly threats and choking restrictions to their work, and some governments working to undermine the accessibility and effectiveness of human rights mechanisms and multilateral processes.

But it’s also been a period over which sparks have been lit on key issues which we must now nurture and ensure fires of progress that long burn bright.

More information

Amnesty International Report 2021/22: The state of the world’s human rights (available in different languages)

The Amnesty International Report 2021/22 highlights the human rights situation in 154 countries in 2021. It presents Amnesty International’s documented concerns and recommendations for governments and others. From a human rights perspective, 2021 was largely a story of betrayal and hypocrisy in the corridors of power. But hopes for a better post-pandemic world were kept alive by courageous individuals, social movements and civil society organizations. Their efforts and limited hard-won victories should prompt governments to live up to their promises.

More information

Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change

The Working Group III report provides an updated global assessment of climate change mitigation progress and pledges, and examines the sources of global emissions. It explains developments in emission reduction and mitigation efforts, assessing the impact of national climate pledges in relation to long-term emissions goals.

More information

New findings show how funders need to break the NGO starvation cycle

Humentum, a global organization focused improving how nonprofits operate, in partnership with Funders for Real Cost, Real Change, a collaborative of private foundations, today released a groundbreaking research report revealing inadequate coverage of administrative costs by funders. The data demonstrates how international funders are trapping their grantees in a “starvation cycle” by not sufficiently funding their administrative or so-called overhead costs.

More information

Latin America: New report reveals systematic torture against Indigenous Peoples

Every day indigenous peoples in Latin America are subjected to different forms of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, says a report published today by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), the Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Center for Human Rights (Frayba), and seven other organisations that make up the Working Group on Torture and Indigenous Peoples.

More information

Online event: 12th April, 2:30–6:30pm CEST, UN recognition to the right to a healthy environment: past and future


Call for applications: Activity grants for human rights defenders, deadline: 18 April, 2022

CIVICUS, a global alliance of civil society organisations and activists dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society throughout the world, invites civil society organisations and movements to submit a proposal for an activity to celebrate human rights defenders and highlight the challenges they face.

This initiative is part of CIVICUS’s #StandAsMyWitness campaign, which advocates for the release of human rights defenders behind bars, harassed and persecuted for standing up to fundamental rights and freedoms. These human rights defenders advocate for the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and a safe environment but face reprisals from their government for being critical voices that question policies and seeking human rights accountability.

More information

Women’s antimilitary campaign: “NO Means NO!”

Led by Olga Karatch, a renowned human rights defender from Belarus, the “No Means No” campaign is a feminist campaign whose goal is to mobilize and bring together anti-war groups globally to help Belarussian and Russian conscientious objectors to avoid being conscripted and participating in the war in Ukraine based on Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil ad Political Rights.

Both women and women are welcome to participate by following these simple steps:

  • Shoot a 1–2 minute video using your mobile phone in any language with an appeal to Belarussian men that you fully support them in refusing to fight on Putin’s side, that it is their right to say NO to the war in Ukraine and NO to Putin’s activities. That the real heroes in Belarus today are those who do not fight on Putin’s side.
  • Share the video on Facebook, Instagram, Tik-Tok or Twitter using the hashtags #NoMeansNo, #NoWar, @StandUpWithUkraine, tag “Our House”

For more information, do not hesitate to reach out to Olga Karatch on her Twitter @olga_karatch.

UPDATE FROM IS_HumanRights (Twitter)

Our Twitter following has grown to 600 followers and we wish to thank you for your support. In case you would like us to amplify your work or a campaign you are working on, please write to us and follow us on @IS_HumanRights.