Dear ISHR Community,
The beginning of the New Year also marks the beginning of new strategies of The International Society for Human Rights (ISHR). Needless to say: the global pandemic has worsened the violation of human rights in some parts of the world as well as evoked new problems and grievances. But looking back at 2020 in the light of the global Covid-pandemic, we are very grateful, that through our sectoral and regional diversity, lots of activities were still implemented and planned in order to protect and reinforce human rights worldwide – very often in new, creative ways, some of which we will be able to present in this new edition of the ISHR Newsletter.
For 2021, ISHR has decided to create new opportunities for growth specifically on the African continent. With the so-called Africa Growth Strategy, I have suggested that ISHR family will be expanding its outreach to Western, Eastern and Central Africa first in order to set new teams and activities for strengthening human rights on a more global scale. The first steps towards this goal were already taken by newly elected General Secretary Matthias Böhning and his team in the International Secretariat. With a corporate team, Matthias visited Ghana at the end of 2020 in order to build bridges to already existing human rights groups and to discuss the current challenges, difficulties as well as hopes for the future of human rights in Ghana.
The ills of this world may have grown. But as a global family we are rising up for human rights worldwide, we are growing, too.
Prof. Dr. Thomas Schirrmacher
President of the International Council of the ISHR
Ulrich Nitschke, Jessica Blum
Managing Editors, ISHR Secretariat
HUMAN RIGHTS WORLDWIDE
Breaking the spine – Lukashenko’s Guantanamo dream castle?
By Carmen Krusch-Grün, Pavel Pernikau
The Covid pandemic keeps the whole world in suspense, the joy about the redeeming vaccine is dampened by start-up difficulties and new mutations. However, the pandemic not only threatens the health of the world’s population, but also the responsibility of the European Union for human rights violations in repressive systems. This is also very evident in the example of Belarus. It is as if the Iron Curtain that fell 30 years ago, the age of globalization and the Internet can still be ” treated” with the familiar home remedies of authoritarian centralist regimes.
Those who still show backbone seem to be broken with brutal force. Belarus’ independent police association BYPOL, formed after the brutal crackdown on the civic movement, released an audio recording whose voice it attributed to Mikalai Karpiankou, head of the police special operation and now Belarus’ deputy interior minister, i.e. Lukashenko’s right-hand man. In the recording, Belarusian police officers are obviously trained in how to deal with protesters. In addition to cruel expressions of violence, it is also reported that Lukashenko is planning a kind of Belarusian Guantanamo for those demonstrators who do not comply. The Interior Ministry is said to have developed its own database for this purpose. Because, according to the report, all these demonstrators are superfluous people, terrorists, who must be treated in such a way that they cannot regain consciousness afterwards … There would be nothing left of half of the brain … because if it was not opposed with full force, Belarus would be lost and would be divided between Russia, Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine. And that is why the police apparatus would be especially challenged now. The time had come, it is said, when determined young people were needed who would excel themselves. These young state saviors, Lukashenko would have promised, could expect the highest honors.
Tell Me About The War
ISHR publishes joint video project for 75 years end of the Second World War
“Tell me about the war” is a joint project carried out by the International Society for Human Rights, which was produced in 2020 through support of the German Federal Foreign Office. It features veterans from 7 countries of the former Soviet Union. Their stories and wartime experiences are filled with their views on what it means to gain and maintain peace. Eventually, their messages are of high relevance to the next generation of people worldwide.
Human Rights Reporters Ghana up for 2020 Africans Rising Activism Award
The 2020 African Rising Activism Award is held to recognize and motivate movements of organizations and individual activists promoting justice, peace and dignity in Africa.
The Human Rights Reporters Ghana (HRRG) has been named among 10 finalists who have demonstrated sterling leadership in their work as selfless advocates for the rights of people on the continent as part of the 2020 Africans Rising Activism Award under the Movement of the Year category. It is an initiative of young Ghanaian journalists, editors, lawyers and human right activists who have come together to address human rights violations in Ghana. Through this, they aim to bring the country closer to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. General Secretary of ISHR, Matthias Böhning, encountered the NGO during his visit in Ghana at the end of the last year in order to build bridges to ISHR activities to come.
According to the organizers, the 10 finalists for the Movement of the Year award category will be made to undergo an open public online voting under the next phase of the competition of which the organization with the highest vote would be adjudged the 2020 Africans Rising Movement of the Year. The voting will close on February 2nd.
Participation through voting is possible via AfricanRising
Photo source: AfricanRising
A brief overview of Human Rights issues in Ghana
By Bibi Hammond
Standing tall as a strong democracy and the fastest growing economy in Africa, Ghana continues to write her story in the fight for fundamental human rights of all citizens, achieving a couple of wins, amidst many challenges.
The country made significant strides as the right to information (RTI) law took effect in 2020. The Bill, which was enacted in 2019, was meant to encourage transparency and accountability by the government. Other noteworthy achievements in the last few years include free meals for school children and free basic and senior high school education.
However, a random search on television, radio or social media channels in Ghana, would showcase journalists, politicians and talk show hosts expressing their views freely on different matters, including sensitive issues of national interest. On this backdrop of free expression, it was shocking to witness the heart wrenching murder of Ahmed Suale, an investigative journalist, whose work on corruption, incited calls for brutality against him from a ruling parliamentarian. This, including other recent incidents of threats and attacks on the media, have caused the county’s ranking on the World Press Freedom Index to drop from 27 to 30.
The list continues with issues on environmental rights, housing and more. But in spite of the pockets of setbacks, major actors on the human rights scene are making great headway in ensuring rights and freedoms for all.
Large demonstration “Freedom for Alexey Navalny”
On January 23rd, a large demonstration by Russians took place in the German capital under the motto “Freedom for Alexey Navalny”. According to the Berlin police, 2000 people took part. According to participants’ estimates, it could have been much more. In the appeal, the German federal government was also called on to campaign for the release of Navalny.
An ISHR representative pointed out that the German Federal Public Prosecutor sees Russian state agencies as commissioners for the murder of Tornike K. in the Berlin park “Kleiner Tiergarten” in 2019. Vadim K., who carried out the murder with a Glock 26 pistol with a silencer, is currently underway in Berlin. Leh thanked all demonstrators for coming and for their commitment to freedom and democracy in their home country.
Photo source: Leh
FROM THE SECTIONS
Covid 19: A tool of the oppressors
A comment by Martin Lessenthin
On Human Rights Day on 10 December, an annual assessment is made: Has the human rights situation improved or deteriorated? Unfortunately, it is not possible to take a positive account for 2020. The first year of the Corona pandemic was a very bad year for political prisoners, for freedom of expression, freedom of religion and other fundamental rights.
The pandemic is being instrumentalized as a welcome pretext for discrimination against religious minorities, the isolation of political prisoners and the harassment of human rights defenders. It has become a tool of oppressors who, regardless of their political stance, disguise human rights violations as pandemic fighting.
After the outbreak of the pandemic, the persecution of Christians and the destruction of places of worship in the People’s Republic of China continued. On March 13, 2020, the cross was removed from a church in Guoyang District in Anhui Province. The Chinese Communist Party wants to ensure at all costs that Christian life no longer exists in public. These measures are also directed against Christians who are publicly praying for an end of the pandemic.
Photo source: Martin Lessenthin at a vigil for human rights in Hong Kong on the Global Day of Action 2020 in Frankfurt. Image rights: IGFM
Rachel takes sponsorship for imprisoned Christian in Iran
Frankfurt am Main/Teheran (idea) – The Federal Chairman of the Protestant Working Group (EAK) of the CDU/CSU, the Parliamentary State Secretary Thomas Rachel, has taken the political sponsorship for the Christian Mohammad Mosayebzadeh who is imprisoned in Iran. The politician is working with the International Society for Human Rights (ISHR) to secure his immediate release.
Mosayebzadeh was arrested in May 2016 along with three other members of the Protestant-reformed “Church of Iran” during a worship and released on bail in early June. In July 2017 an Islamic Revolutionary Court sentenced the former Muslim to 10 years in prison for “endangering national security by spreading Christianity.” The verdict was upheld by an appeal court. He has been serving his sentence in the notorious Evin prison in Tehran since July 2018.
Martin Lessenthin, spokesman of the board of the ISHR, welcomed Rachel’s commitment to a political prisoner who is imprisoned for religious reasons. On several occasions, Thomas Rachel had already worked for political prisoners together with the ISHR.
The Islamic Republic of Iran systematically disregards the rights of its citizens, according to the human rights organization. Members of ethnic, religious and political minorities are subject to multiple discrimination: Repeatedly, there are arbitrary arrests, convictions without fair trials, abuses and executions of dissidents.
In this IGFM program, MPs select a specific political prisoner and use their political weight to advocate for his or her freedom. This is done primarily by the MP contacting the ambassador and the relevant government and asking questions about the political prisoner by letter. It is also possible and desirable, of course, for MPs to draw attention to their commitment to human rights and the prisoner in their own media work. The more publicity for the prisoner, the better.
Photo source: IGFM
ISHR Sweden hosts webinar “Stop Beijing 2022”
By Peter Ebertz
The ISHR Section Sweden initiated a webinar regarding the movement “Stop Beijing 2022”, primarily focused on parliament members. The NGO Free Hong Kong (Befria Hong Kong, Sweden) was invited to act as Co-invitiator.
The Human Rights development in Hong Kong has been one of the main “Sweden-China”-political topics in the parliament and is a non-party-political issue in Sweden. Since early September the ISHR section Sweden therefore started to work with inviting guest-speakers directly from Hong Kong, or former residents of Hong Kong who could provide a deep analysis on the topic. The goal was to help Swedish politicians to see the true face of the communist regime in China.
“We started to involve all 8 Swedish parties to aim a broader influence in the parliament. It took quite some time to connect them, and finally we got 8 parties jointly as the organisers for the 1,5-hour seminar. Over 30 parliament members made pre-registration”, said Peter Ebertz. “Since it was an online meeting, we also invited other NGOs working with human right issues in China. A dozen of them jointed the meeting.”
The seminar was successful and directly after, all the organisers send back their thanks and the audience feedback were very good too. A recording of the seminar can be accessed on the online platform.
For more information, please visit the website of StopBeijing2022.
See current endorsements.
You can also follow the movement on Twitter/Instagram/Facebook
or contact on Telegram at @StopBeijing2022.
Photo source: NTD Sverig
IGFM holds press conference on International Human Rights Day 2020
“Where religious freedom is restricted, people must fear for their lives”
Frankfurt am Main, December 9, 2020 – Taking stock of religious freedom worldwide: On December 9, 2020, the International Society for Human Rights (IGFM) and the World Evangelical Alliance held a video press conference to celebrate the International Human Rights Day. Among other things, they presented the 2020 yearbooks “Religious Freedom” and “Persecution and Discrimination against Christians.”
Quotes from the press conference:
“For religious freedom, the ultimate test is whether one grants the same rights that one demands for one’s own religion and worldview to all other religions and worldviews, indeed, even better, actively advocates for them.” – Prof. Dr. mult. Thomas Schirrmacher, Editor of the Yearbooks Religious Freedom and the Persecution of Christians, President of the Council of the International Society for Human Rights (ISHR).
“Religious freedom is a human right. Where religious freedom is restricted or reinterpreted, people must fear for their existence and their lives. Restrictions on religious freedom go hand in hand with restrictions on other civil rights and civil society institutions. For years, the Yearbook on Religious Freedom has never tired of pointing out these human rights connections.” – Uwe Heimowski, Representative of the German Evangelical Alliance e.V. at the Seat of the Bundestag and the Federal Government.
Human Rights Council Meetings
22 February–23 March.
The Human Rights Council holds no fewer than three regular sessions a year, for a total of at least ten weeks. They take place during several weeks in March, June and September. The next regular session will take place on 22 February to 23 March. All upcoming Events in 2021 and further information can be seen on the website of the United Nations Human Rights Council. [More information]
‘WHEN I GROW UP’ – Virtual Exhibition of Rohingya children’s art for education • Amnesty International
24 January 2021–19 February 2021
Amnesty International organized an ‘art camp’ for children in the refugee settlement in Cox’s Bazar in June 2019. The art camp, supported by UNICEF and facilitated by six prominent Bangladeshi cartoonists, brought together Rohingya childen’s aspirations about what they wish to become when they grow up.
On World Education Day 2021, Amnesty International brings to you a collection of these works of art by Rohingya children. [More information]