Dear ISHR Community,

Season’s Greetings! 

What is your definition of equality – is a question we posed to our online community this month to mark the International Human Rights Day. Equality – reducing inequalities, advancing human rights was the dedicated focus of this year’s commemoration of the day.

As 2021 comes to an end, many are reflecting and setting intentions or resolutions for 2022 even as the new Covid variant Omicron spreads worldwide giving scientists, public health specialists and many people sleepless nights. At ISHR, going forward into 2022, we’re carrying the message of equality close.

Equality in undoing the vaccine injustice caused by unfair vaccine distribution, stockpiling and sending of expired vaccines – all of which contravene international, legal and human rights laws and the spirit of solidarity.

Equality in advancing the right to a healthy environment and climate justice. COP26 happened in October/November but produced very mixed outcomes. Whilst progress was made on stopping deforestation, reducing methane emissions, quitting coal and a surprise deal between the biggest polluters (China and USA) promising to work together, the unfavorable outcomes touched on human rights issues. Firstly, the issue of reparations – money from richer countries (who emit more) to poorer ones (who emit less) was not tackled and neither was the commitment to follow through the provision of funding to support developing countries to cope with climate change. Climate change disproportionately affects persons or groups of people in vulnerable situations.

Equality, closer to ISHR’s work to address the root causes of human rights violations by listening and amplifying the work of human rights defenders who are working to promote human rights in repressive environments. Equality and non-discrimination are essential in ensuring everyone has access to the preventive benefits of human rights. We salute you for continuing your work unabated in the face of difficulties and look forward to supporting you in working toward equality however that may look like in 2022.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays.

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: Political prisoners in Ingushetia

A few months ago, we spotlighted Ingushetia, the smallest republic in the Russian Federation with a population of about 400,000. The history of the Ingush people has been heavily influenced by Russia as Putin has sought indirect control of the Ingush people as they struggle to establish an independent state. Human rights violations have been committed by Putin’s regime particularly where women and girls, LGBTQ+ rights, and land grabbing is concerned. Today, we’re featuring the individual profiles of the freedom fighters of Ingushetia. Some of these human rights defenders make up the Ingush “opposition leaders” who have been sentenced by the Kislovodsk city court to terms from 7.5 to 9 years in a general regime colony, as reported by correspondent of Novaya Gazeta from the courtroom. Maslag Uzhakhov, Akhmed Barakhoev and Musa Malsagov were sentenced to 9 years in prison. Ismail Nalgiev, Bagaudin Khautiev and Barakh Chemurziev were sentenced to 8 years in a general regime colony, Zarifa Sautiyeva – to 7 years 6 months in a colony. Everyone was also banned from engaging in social activities. For more information on these human rights defenders. Follows the link below.


Read the full article

Appeal for solidarity with MEMORIAL – Russia’s oldest human rights organization

MEMORIAL was founded in 1987 by the Nobel Peace Prize winner Andrei Sakharov. Last month, MEMORIAL received a letter from Russia’s Supreme Court demanding it is dissolved. In the past, MEMORIAL has been the target for defamation, persecution, unwarranted searches, imprisonment and fines. For more on this appeal, please read this article and sign this petition by the German Association for East European Studies protesting the forced dissolution of MEMORIAL.

Read the full article

“Threatened and denied religious freedom is a central human rights issue”

To mark Human Rights Day 2021, human rights activists and representatives of Christian relief organizations took stock of the current situation of religious freedom in a press briefing organized by the International Society for Human Rights – German section (IGFM) and the German Evangelical Alliance (DEA). Germany’s new federal government has not clarified yet how it will advocate for religious freedom in the future. The traffic light coalition wants to strengthen the office of the “Commissioner for Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid.” Many fear this could happen to the detriment of the Office for “Religious Freedom Worldwide.”

The right to religious self-determination, to change one’s faith and to mission is a human right and has been threatened recently. Special awareness and information by an independent body of the German government about current developments is more necessary than ever before. Martin Lessenthin, board spokesman of the IGFM, affirms: “Threatened and denied religious freedom is a central human rights issue”. The event was part of this awareness raising exercise.

The humanitarian crisis caused by Lukashenko’s politics

In the last few weeks, tensions have been growing between the EU and Belarus fueling a humanitarian crisis on Europe’s eastern border with thousands of asylum seekers and migrants being used as pawns in a geopolitical dispute. The Belarussian government led by Alexander Lukashenko has been accused by the EU of using irregular migration to hit back at the EU after a 2020 election – which is widely believed to have been rigged. Lukashenko also clamped down on opposition, civil and human rights and used state violence to silence peaceful protesters. These human rights violations alongside the forced landing to arrest Roman Protasevich, a 26-year-old dissident journalist prompted EU to impose sanctions on Belarus.

The current situation is Lukashenko’s attempt to deepen internal EU divisions over migration policy to his political advantage by providing would-be asylum seekers and migrants visas to Belarus and turning them towards the EU borders. These asylum seekers are from Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, some from Congo-Brazaville and Russia. Among the many governments worldwide who have called for an end to this humanitarian crisis in Belarus, the European Evangelical Alliance recently issued a statement for the crisis to be resolved whilst upholding values of human dignity, justice, compassion and solidarity.

From the Sections

Nicaragua: No wonder! Nicaraguans deserve a better future

On November 7, Nicaragua held presidential elections that saw the re-election of Daniel Ortega, the longest serving dictator in the country’s political system. Worse still, his wife (Rosario) was also appointed as the head of government and the spokesperson of the regime. Despite voter apathy running at 81.2%, international condemnation of the regime, the human rights violations committed, Ortega is determined to hang on to power at all costs. Our ISHR colleagues in Nicaragua filed the following comprehensive update on the elections.

Read the full article

State of Civil Society Report – CIVICUS Alliance

© Canva

In late November, Bella Shikaryan, head of ISHR section in Armenia and Helen Manaseryan, head of the educational center of the Confederation of Trade Unions of Armenia were both interviewed by the Legal Gazette on human rights in Armenia and how the monitoring and analysis of trials – a project by ISHR section in Ukraine is being implemented in Armenia.

As a result of the pandemic and disputes arising from changes in legislation in this context, monitoring will for the first time touch upon the issues of respect for the human right to work within the Armenian context. For more information, follow the link below in Russian but can be translate to English.

Read the full article

Ukraine: ISHR monitoring tool used at hearing of high profile businessman Vladimir Galanternik

© Ukrainian National News (UNN)

In early November 2021, ISHR Ukraine put their new monitoring project (LINK) into use again during the hearing of Ukrainian businessman Vladimir Galanternik’s suspected of founding and leading a criminal organization in Odessa. The ISHR were present during a meeting with National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) which suggested carrying out a pre-trial investigation against Vladimir. ISHR Ukraine’s monitoring project uncovered various loopholes in the pre-trial investigation which they pointed out could easily lead to a violation of the right to a fair trial. Read on to find out.

The monitoring project by ISHR Ukraine was also reposted by the Ukrainian media (article in Russian) and received more than 20,000 views in one day pointing at the success of this project.

Read the full article

Events & Resources

Latest issue: International Journal for Religious Freedom – December 2021

The International Institute for Religious Freedom (IIRF) of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) just published the latest issue of the International Journal for Religious Freedom (IJRF). Amid increased attention in academia and a growing interest in the topic of religious freedom among national governments and international bodies in recent years, the 12th Volume of the IJRF discusses the impact of religious freedom research on academia, on public policy and on vulnerable religious groups. The IJRF is available free of charge and can be downloaded here as individual articles or full issue.

More information

State of Civil Society Report – CIVICUS Alliance

Every year, CIVICUS publishes the State of Civil Society Report to analyse how contemporary events and trends affect civil society and how civil society is responding to the ongoing major issues. This 10th edition of the report focuses on civil society action and developments affecting civil society in 2020, looking back over 10 years of civil society activitiy and highlighting key ideas for action in civil society in 2021 and beyond.

More information

Online training – Professional Certificate in Conflict Resolution, Transformation and Peacebuilding (8th–11th March 2022)

This course provides those involved in peace and security issues and/or work in conflict environments with a clear understanding of the principles and processes to prevent, manage and resolve conflict in a sustainable manner.

Interactive learning with skills training will increase participants’ understanding of the key issues in conflict prevention, management and resolution. Course participants gain a conceptual framework in conflict resolution in violent contexts and gain skills in dialogue, negotiation and mediations.

More information

Online training course for national human rights insitututions on international human rights mechanisms (3–20 May, 2022)

The Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) in cooperation with its partners the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES), the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the United Nations Training and Research Institute (UNITAR) is inviting National Human Rights Institutions (NHRI) staff worldwide to apply for the 2022 training course on the international human rights mechanisms.

More information

Online training for human rights defenders – HRDAP 2022 (between 4 April and 24 June, 2022)

Are you a human rights defender keen to use the UN to push for change at home? If so, apply to the 2022 edition of ISHR’s flagship training the Human Rights Defender Advocacy Programme (HRDAP). The course equips human rights defenders with the knowledge and skills to integrate the UN human rights system into their existing work at the national level in a strategic manner, and provides an opportunity for participants to prepare for and engage in lobbying and advocacy activities at the UN with the aim to effect change back home.

Deadline for applications for HRDAP22 is Monday 3 January 2022.

More information

Online conference: Academy and conference 2022 by UNESCO on Human Rights Go Local – What Works “From Intentions to Commitments: Towards the Effective and Sustainable Implementation of Human Rights” (1–8 February 2022)

Cities and municipalities are the public authorities closest to their citizens. Therefore, it is crucial to implement human rights at the local level to ensure that no one is left behind. What are concrete ways for local governments and stakeholders to strengthen their commitment to human rights? To answer this question, we want to draw together efforts from across the world aiming at fostering commitments to human rights at the local level.

More information

UPDATE FROM IS_HumanRights (Twitter)

Our Twitter following has grown to 500 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.