Dear ISHR Community,
As the global recession in democracy and rise in authoritarianism deepens, the International Society for Human Rights (ISHR) upholds their comprehensive efforts in advocating for and supporting those fighting for their civil and political rights worldwide. The year 2021 marks the 15th consecutive year of decline in global freedom, the Freedom in the World Report 2021 states. The democracy gap of 2021 is the greatest the last 15 years, with 73 countries facing deterioration as opposed to only 28 countries experiencing improvement in democracy as well as political and civil liberties. Democracy and global freedom continues to be under siege.
Especially now, with many governments tightening their authoritarian grip and fighting against their opponents through detention, torture, and even murder, international support is urgently needed for courageous voices stepping up against violent regimes. The ISHR has always, since their foundation 50 years ago, been a loyal advocate for those facing severe human rights violations by authoritarian regimes, focusing especially on political freedoms and the rights of political prisoners. Our national sections and groups in over 40 countries worldwide are working locally and promoting advocacy globally. Through their deep local rootedness, they are able to gain information early and broadly, e.g. about the health status of political detainees or activists less known by the international human rights community. The international network, on the other side, enhances the mutual exchange of information and learnings, and facilitates global advocacy for the local human rights violations.
In these turbulent times, the ISHR continues to fight tirelessly for human rights worldwide, especially in countries where the population, opposition politicians and activist face grave dangers. This newsletter highlights the work of the sections in Belarus, Nicaragua, Kenya, Ingushetia and the Very Important Stamps Campaign from the German section. It aims at contributing to one of the most crucial aspects of human rights work: generating attention. In order to spread the news, we also warmly invite to connect with us through social media. Join us on Twitter (@IS_HumanRights) to engage in dialogue and give a voice to ISHR and human rights defenders worldwide. Or reach out to us with your creative ideas to spread the good news of human rights engagement via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Prof. Dr. Thomas Schirrmacher
President of the International Council of the ISHR
Ulrich Nitschke, Elena Lunz and Joan Okitoi
Managing Editors, ISHR Secretariat
HUMAN RIGHTS WORLDWIDE
Focus: The North Caucasus, Ingushetia, Origins
Tucked in the northern part of the Caucasus, bordering North Ossetia to the west, Chechnya to the east and Georgia to the South, Ingushetia is the smallest republic in the Russian Federation with a population of only about 400,000. The population is made up of close to 100% ethnic Ingush people. This region (North Caucasus) is hardly known nor understood by the rest of Europe but often seen as “difficult“ due to the neighboring Chechen wars that took place in 1994–1996, 1999–2009.
Historical encounters with Persian and Ottoman Empire introduced Islam or Sufism as a way of life in Ingushetia. Over the years, Ingushetia has not been spared from Russian political and economic developments. Stalin’s reign saw them expelled when they voiced their wishes for an independent state. Their return back to Russia after 13 years in Kazakstan saw them embroiled in a power struggle for territories that originally belonged to them but had been taken by Chechnya. More troubling, Russia installed Yunus-bek Yevkurov in 2008 as president of Ingushetia who champions the political interests of Putin’s regime and not those of his own people.
This poses many challenges on human rights in the region, especially on women’s’ and girls’ and LGBTQ+ rights, land grabbing issues due to border changes in favor of Chechnya, and totalitarian oppression both from the neighboring republic and the Ingushetia government. Numerous activists, organizing social protests, find themselves imprisoned on spurious charges since over two years now. Find more information about their detention here.
For a detailed account of the current political and human rights climate in Ingushetia and its historical background, click on the link below.
President Lukashenko tightens his authoritarian grip on Belarus
© Creative Commons
The forced landing of a Ryanair flight on Sunday 23 May 2021 has put Belarusian president Alexander G. Lukashenko in a new global spotlight. The plane that was travelling from the Greek capital Athens to Vilnius, Lithuania was forced to land in the Belarusian capital Minsk by military jets, where Roman Protasevich, a 26-year-old dissident journalist and political activist was captured and detained. This incident marks a new quality of Belarusian authoritarian repression that has already intensified substantially since August 2020, when Belarusians were met with violent police crackdown while protesting controversial election results that put Lukashenko back into office.
The detention of Protasevich is one of many measures being taken by the Lukashenko’s authoritarian regime to clamp down on civil and human rights. Presidential candidates have been silenced, election results falsified and state violence has been used to silence peaceful protesters. There are also continued large waves of arrests, nationwide raids, elimination of the independent media, democratic non-governmental organizations and their contacts with the outside world. The juridical system is entirely taken over by the executive, which is manifesting through further license withdrawals in the independent legal profession, show trials, and convictions in the absence of the accused. In prisons, human rights are deeply disregarded, e.g. by torture through solitary confinement in dark solitary cells or even manslaughter through massive use of force by state officers. The stability of the state apparatus, without which these massive national human rights violations could not take place, must be weakened. For human and political reasons, there is an urgent need for concerted action by the EU. For more information on actions the EU can take, please click here.
The International Society for Human Rights (ISHR) is continuously supporting political opponents, journalists and activists and advocating for them by raising international awareness to their situation. Find more information on our Website on different topics in the area of human rights in Belarus, e.g. about the imprisoned journalist Syarhei Pyatrukhin and activist Alexander Kordyukov and the murder of Gennady Shutov. ISHR also joined an open letter of 50 NGOs of 18 countries towards Nestlé, demanding the immediate stop of financing Belarusian state media
You can make a huge difference by writing letters to the political prisoners. Find more information here.
Very Important Stamps Campaign
In May 2021, the International Society for Human Rights (ISHR) launched the very important stamps prison mail initiative. Representing thousands of prisoners around the world, ten political prisoners were portrayed for postage stamps by well-known artists from Germany. The stamps were printed and can be obtained for free from the ISHR.
FROM THE SECTIONS
Nicaragua: Opposition candidates and civil society activists arrested in the run-up to general elections
In the run-up to the general elections happening in Nicaragua on 7 November 2021 to elect the President, the National Assembly and members of the Central American Parliament, the civil and human rights’ situation in Nicaragua has deteriorated substantially. Political and civil society leaders face severe persecution. In the last few days several presidential pre-candidates and civil leaders have been arrested and charged with spurious justifications.
Among them are the following presidential pre-candidates:
- Cristiana Chamorro – held in house detention.
- Juan Sebastian Chamorro- imprisoned in El Chipote prison in Managua.
- Arturo Cruz detained at the Judicial Assistance Directorate.
- Felix Maradiaga imprisoned at El Chipote Prison in Managua.
The leaders of civil organizations arrested are
- Violeta Granera Padilla – held in house detention.
- Jose Pallais- imprisoned in León.
- Jose Adan Agerri detained at El Chipote Prison in Managua.
It is believed that more human rights activists will be arrested in the next few days. This continues the upsurge of political prisoners with 100 unlawful detentions reported at the end of 2020 by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
ISHR Nicaragua is lobbying the Organization of American States to apply the Democratic Charter against Nicaragua and the U.S. government.
You can find more information on the detainment of Cristiana Chamorro Barrios, opposition presidential candidate here.
Kenya: Rising Covid cases deepen existing socio-economic challenges
The Coronavirus pandemic has affected both the young and old in Kenya and has left many in dire need of basic necessities such as food and added a new dimension to basic necessities. The pandemic has meant sanitizers, masks, soaps and other disinfectants also fall into this list of basic necessities. As the ISHR Kenya section is supporting poor families and individuals, those new necessary goods add to our budget. In the same time, our budgetary constraints have grown since we rely on local Christian groups to support us financially.
Image source: We’re all on the same team by David Espinosa, The Greats (https://thegreats.co/artworks/we-are-all-on-the-same-team)
The small scale farmers who feed over 70 percent of Kenyan families have been affected firstly by the low rainfall and secondly by the little support from Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture to produce more food particularly during the pandemic. These are signs of an impending food shortage in the country. Farming in Kenya provides subsistence farmers with employment and is also a source of livelihood for their families. The Ministry of Health in Kenya have been steadfast in their efforts to guide, warn and urge all Kenyans to protect themselves from the Coronavirus and even thousands have been vaccinated. However, with a population of about 48 million people, less than 5 percent of Kenyans have been vaccinated against the virus. We are appealing to Western countries to increase the supply of Covid vaccines to Kenya.
With the Kenyan situation in mind, we second the statement of the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner about the human rights dimension of poverty:
“No social phenomenon is as comprehensive in its assault on human rights as poverty. Poverty erodes or nullifies economic and social rights such as the right to health, adequate housing, food and safe water, and the right to education. The same is true of civil and political rights, such as the right to a fair trial, political participation and security of the person. This fundamental recognition is reshaping the international community’s approach to the next generation of poverty reduction initiatives.”
As many countries in the West relax Coronavirus restrictions and see some light at the end of the tunnel, Kenya like many African countries are struggling with rising Covid cases. The hospitals are strained in their capacities, the number of Covid deaths in communities is surging and poverty is deepening as a result of the rising unemployment caused by containment measures. While the government plans to roll out stipends to affected communities, the cash transfers are yet to reach everyone and additional support to the Kenyan government is very welcome.
One of our most immediate needs locally is financial support for Naomi, one of the teachers in our school who manages the Bakkers Nursery School and Child Care. We need about 550 Euros per month to keep both the nursery and child care running and welcome any donations.
Events & Resources
UN-OHCHR report on structural racism:
“Promotion and protection of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of Africans and of people of African descent against excessive use of force and other human rights violations by law enforcement officers”
‘Stop denying racism, start dismantling it,’ U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights chief says. In a long-awaited report into systemic racism sparked by the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis in May 2020, the UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet has called for countries to start “dismantling racism” and prosecute law enforcement officials for unlawful killings. The report found that racial profiling and the use of excessive force is entrenched in much of North America, Europe and Latin America, and investigated structural racism in jobs, healthcare, housing and education. [More information]
UN-OHCHR: Human Rights and Traditional Justice Systems in Africa
In line with ISHR’s Africa Growth Strategy, we recommend this publication by the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner. It examines traditional justice systems in sub-Saharan Africa from a human rights perspective and, in particular, with reference to the rights enumerated in international human rights treaties. Its aim is to enhance a better understanding of traditional justice systems and to identify specific human rights concerns that traditional justice systems may present. [More information]
Online Event: The human rights case for vaccine multilateralism
The global distribution of lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines has been extremely unequal, with terrible consequences for the rights to health and to life, especially in the world’s poorest countries. This events comes as the number of Covid cases surges in the global South and new strains of the virus remind us how fragile the semblance of ‘normal ‘life in the global North is. Based on an understanding that ‘no one is safe until we are all safe,’ the event will consider the human rights imperatives behind calls for a greater shift from ‘vaccine nationalism’ to ‘vaccine multilateralism’ – through higher production, by removing exports barriers, by sharing already-ordered vaccines, and by upscaling support to the COVAX facility. To join the event on 5 July, RSVP here. [RSVP to join the event]
Online Event: Peaceful Protest: Use of force by states in the context of the COVID-19 Pandemic
The exercise of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, freedom of expression and of participation in the conduct of public affairs, including through peaceful protests, is a legitimate means to express grievances. It is expected that the social, economic and cultural impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic will lead to rising number of such protests globally. The most visible feature of states’ responses to peaceful protests is the use of force by law enforcement officials and this has remained true since the COVID-19 Pandemic. This Geneva Human Rights Platform online side-event during the 47th session of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council – co-organized with the Permanent Missions of Switzerland and of Costa Rica to the UN in Geneva – will discuss the use of force by states in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and will analyze the kind of weapons used, identify trends and propose avenues for further consideration and action. [More information]
Online Event: Amnesty Next Strategy Event
Amnesty International is in the process of designing its new global strategy (#NextStrategy). This virtual event focuses on five big questions that Amnesty International wants to answer relating to how to disrupt power, shift narratives & attitudes, build partnerships, be more diverse, and prioritize. Other actors and organizations in human rights work are invited to join forces in thinking about the question: “We know that it is possible to achieve intentional systemic change and that civil society plays an essential role in it but, are Amnesty’s current approaches to advocacy and campaigning fit for today’s challenges?” The event presents an opportunity for different human rights organizations and activists to connect and enhance partnership-driven human rights work together with one of the biggest human rights organization worldwide. [More information]
World Day against Trafficking in Persons (A/RES/68/192)
More than 21 million people are victims of human trafficking, and these individuals may spend their lives in forced labor without help. On July 30th of every year, the United Nations seeks to raise awareness of the problem through the observance of World Day against Trafficking in Persons.
Campaign by the Paralympics Games: #WeThe15
#WeThe15 run by the Paralympics Games launches a campaign that aims to transform the lives of the one billion people globally who have a disability.
International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances (A/RES/65/209)
Enforced disappearances is a tactic used to subjugate peoples and put communities in fear and involves kidnapping individuals who speak out against oppression and other injustices. On August 30th, the United Nations remembers those who have been victims of this violation of human rights and calls for these practices to be abolished worldwide through the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances.
WORDS TO LIVE BY FROM HEROES OF OUR TIME
Here, we share with you an extract from one of our campaigns the ISHR is advancing on its Twitter channel (@IS_HumanRights). We have intensified our Twitter activities, so make sure to have a look, share and engage!