Editorial: Grateful for the Blessing of Democracy

The ongoing war in Ukraine has continued to keep Europe and the world on tenterhooks in recent weeks. While the tide seems to be turning and Ukraine is recording territorial regains, more aspects of the full extent of the horror of the war are coming to light. There is work to be done on all fronts. An incredible number of people in the country and in the host countries of Ukrainian refugees are in urgent need of help. In this grave situation, we are grateful for the opportunity to continuously expand our humanitarian aid work in Ukraine and for our strong team with strong structures on the ground. You can read more about this and our work in host countries for Ukrainian refugees but also for deserters and refugees from Russia and Belarus in the relevant articles in this newsletter. Although we oppose the war in Ukraine, we also maintain that racist attitudes toward any people, groups are wrong, including against Russians and Russian-speaking people. Criticize Russia’s political leaders for their war, but do not hold innocent people responsible. Even most of the young Russian soldiers dying in this war are just victims, as they did not choose to go to war. Our deep solidarity with the suffering Ukrainian people and the many refugees does not justify a new form of racism.

In the shadow of the news focus on the war in Ukraine, many open and smoldering conflicts in other parts of the world slipped out of the world’s attention. However, this does not change the fact that serious human rights violations are being committed every minute of every day around the world, and that peace and stability are under threat. It is one of our tasks to work against forgetting, covering up and concealing. Only the day before yesterday, we were jolted awake by the news of the renewed flare-up of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan – both countries where the ISHR is active.

Against this background, the existence of a democratic state as a living environment proves to be a great blessing and genuine happiness. Unfortunately, a happiness that is far from being shared by all people in the world (a special article in this newsletter is dedicated to the continuing misfortune of the existence of dictatorships on the African continent). We remember this and especially the many courageous and committed defenders of democracy on this International Day of Democracy. I am personally filled with pride and gratitude for the privilege of presiding over a worldwide network of human rights defenders who work every day to establish, maintain and defend democracy.

This newsletter is once again peppered with many reports from our sections, giving insights into their diverse activities. We would like to highlight our work in Kenya, which is currently undergoing a generational change: Bishop Kimani, a veteran human rights defender and valued colleague, is retiring and handing over the baton to Wanjeri Nderu, who continues our important work to promote human rights in East Africa with fresh issues of no less poignancy. Each new generation brings with it new issues and new forms of engagement – an essay in this newsletter is dedicated to this cross-cutting theme, penned by a young lawyer from Uganda who is currently on a working visit to our ISHR Secretariat in Bonn.

Finally, We would like to extend an invitation for today to an event of a special kind: For the first time, on this International Day of Democracy, we will pilot a conversation format on the platform “Twitter Spaces”. Together we will talk about democracy from different perspectives and cordially invite all partners, colleagues, friends and supporters worldwide to engage in constructive critical dialogue. We are pleased to see that there seem to be hardly any limits in the choice of communication channels for our important work and would like to encourage and strengthen all of you in this sense: On today’s International Democracy Day, seek out the conversation with other people. Be creative again and again in your choice of ways and means to pursue our common cause of promoting human rights and supporting human rights defenders worldwide.

Best regards,

Thomas Paul Schirrmacher
President – ISHR

Matthias Boehning
Secretary General – ISHR

Ukraine: ISHR IAC Opens Office in Kiev and Steps up Humanitarian Aid

In the midst of the turmoil of war in Ukraine, the ISHR’s Information and Analysis Center (IAC) team in Ukraine has grown remarkably strong. In August, it moved into new offices in Kiev, from where it can continue its intensive work in the fields of humanitarian aid and human rights protection at an even more professional level.

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Cuba: Cubans in Catastrophic Situation

For years, the bureaucracy-ridden Castro regime has amply demonstrated its absolute inefficiency: Suffice it to say that Cuba, once the largest producer and exporter of sugar, can barely meet its domestic needs. But the scale of misery achieved in recent months under President Miguel Díaz-Canel is frankly catastrophic.

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Germany: German Section of ISHR receives ZÊD Award for Special Services to the Yazidis

On the occasion of the 8th anniversary of the genocide against the Yazidis, a memorial event was held in Frankfurt’s Pauls Church on 3 August to commemorate those who died, those who were liberated and those who were left behind.

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Guatemala: Child Abuse Prevention Seminars

From Wednesday, 24 August 2022, to Friday, 26 August 2022, ISHR Guatemala held child abuse prevention seminars titled “Mi Refugio” in cooperation with the organization “Prison Fellowship Guatemala”. These seminars are aimed at all those, who work with people that have been abused and who can reproduce the seminar with others who require guidance.

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Kenya: A Human Rights Defender Retires

ISHR’s long-time representative in Kenya, Bishop Joseph Kimani, is retiring as of September 2022. The ISHR thanks the former Kenyan Member of Parliament for the Nakuru North Region for the Forum for the Restoration of Democracy (FORD-Asili) and Bishop of the Kenya National Evangelical Alliance for his decades of commitment to human rights in Kenya and would like to use this article to point to some shared milestones.

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Kenya: A Silent Epidemic – Sexual Abuse of Boys

Sexual violence and harassment continuous to permeate all sectors of society worldwide, a vice that threatens to disenfranchise our social fabric. As the world evolves, so does abuse take new forms, though it largely encompasses physical violence, uninvited physical contact, defilement and rape.

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Lithuania: Humanitarian Aid is Changing the Lives of Ukrainian and Belarusian Refugees

In a recent letter from ISHR’s exiled Belarusian partner organization “Our House/Nash Dom”, the well-known chairwoman Olga Karach described how much more the humanitarian aid of ISHR means for her and the Ukrainian-Belarusian exile community in Lithuania than just the distribution of relief goods: The aid deliveries offer the refugees a point of contact.

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Nicaragua: Human Rights Situation is Deteriorating

The situation in Nicaragua – a country where sanctions against its governments down poured over the couple of dictators running the country – remains unchanged. The number of political prisoners now stands at 190 – among those seven presidential candidates who were a visible threat to Ortega’s ambition to perpetuate himself in power.

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Nicaragua: Ortega Cracks Down on the Catholic Church

When Daniel Ortega came back to power in 2007, he promised not to make again the same mistakes he had made in his previous tenure (1979-1990). Back then, he had lashed out against the Catholic church, its bishops, and priests.

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Sweden: Forced Organ Harvesting – “An unprecedented evil on this planet”

For many years, ISHR Sweden has been engaged in the Almedalen Week, a yearly meeting-point for politicians and Non-governmental Organizations on the island of Gotland in Sweden.

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Switzerland: PluSport Handicap Receives Swiss Human Rights Award

The Swiss section of ISHR has awarded PluSport Handicap Switzerland, the head organization for Swiss disabled sports, with the Swiss Human Rights Award. It is the second Swiss Human Rights Award to be awarded in the year 2022 in quick succession.

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Africa: Dictators in Africa are not Letting Their Guard Down

This year’s International Day for Democracy fell at a time the African Continent is registering big steps in the democratic governance space. It comes at a time when the Republic of Kenya has had a much hailed democratic process that has seen the third peaceful transfer of Power since the end of the Moi dictatorship. The election has been termed by the Commonwealth Observer Mission as ‘generally peaceful and transparent.

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Georgia: Protecting the Rights of the Indigenous Population and Actively Working with Youth

The Georgian section of ISHR continues to actively protect the rights of the population in the occupied territories of Georgia – Abkhazia and Samakhablo (Tskhinvali region) – where the rights of the indigenous Georgian population are constantly violated, especially in the Gali region. People are deprived of the right to work, study, receive medical care in their native Georgian language, and move freely to the neighboring Zugdidi region.

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Africa: Are African Youths being Apathetic to Politics?

Whether it is a quote from Nelson Mandela stating that the future belongs to the young people as leaders of tomorrow, or a quote from Mao Tse Tung saying that the ‘young people are the most active and vital force in society, it has become clear that the youth in Africa have a bigger stake in shaping society. This is underscored by our vitality, inquisition, and our numbers.

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Twitter Spaces: Knowledge Sharing Series

We at the ISHR pride ourselves in knowledge sharing as a tool for advocacy. These series will enable us connect with key actors in the human rights ecosystem around the world. We believe that bringing everyone into a safe space to share their stories, knowledge and experiences will strengthen our network as well as open opportunities for collaboration.

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