This week in an online event, 10 candidate States publicly spoke to an audience of around 200 people on their pledges as incoming Human Rights Council members for 2022 – 2024. They also faced questions on pressing human rights issues from both States and civil society organisations.
Dear friends and supporters,
Creativity. Solidarity. Resilience. Throughout 2020 these values sustained us. And as we enter 2021, perhaps not rejuvenated but with a renewed appreciation of the fragility and indispensability of human rights and those who defend them, these are the values inspiring us.
As we reflect, we’d like to express our heartfelt gratitude to our trusted partners, supporters and donors for your contribution to ISHR’s impact in 2020 and for your investment in our work in 2021.
Here are some of the things we are most proud of; impacts that reflect and were made possible thanks to the creativity, solidarity and resilience of our partners, our staff and the human rights defenders we collectively serve.
- Working with UN experts, governments from all regions, and major investors to issue public statements of concern regarding human rights in China and to call for independent investigation and monitoring of widespread and systematic violations in Xinjiang and Hong Kong
- Partnering with family members, human rights defenders and civil society partners to secure an urgent debate at the UN on the issue of police violence and systemic racism and to mandate the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights to investigate and report on this issue in the US and globally
- Partnering with civil society in Mongolia to draft a national law on the recognition and protection of human rights defenders now under consideration in the Mongolian parliament
- Ensuring that UN human rights bodies continued to fulfil their vital functions monitoring and promoting human rights throughout the coronavirus pandemic, and remained accessible and effective for human rights defenders, e.g. treaty bodies
- Working with civil society partners to ensure that key international principles on equality and justice for LGBTI persons are reflected in laws, policies, practices and jurisprudence at the national, regional and international levels
- Developing a bold, ambitious and dynamic new strategy – in close consultation with human rights defenders and key partners – to ensure that ISHR faithfully and effectively pursues its vision that all people enjoy all human rights, in communities that are diverse and inclusive, in a world that is fair, just, sustainable and peaceful.
- Working with family members, civil society partners, UN experts and States to increase pressure on Saudi Arabia for the release of detained women human rights defenders
- Creating, innovating and adapting training, tools and resources for human rights defenders to make them even more influential and effective in achieving national-level change
- Conducting our first ever fully virtual Human Rights Defender Advocacy Programme (HRDAP) – providing training, strategic advice and advocacy support to 19 defenders over a 12 week period. 100% of participants reported that they were satisfied with the programme, with over 70% saying they were ‘very satisfied’. In the words of one defender: ‘My experience with HRDAP during the pandemic was fruitful and rewarding. I think that besides the excellent content of training it taught me how we have to improvise when the environment is not in our favour. The ISHR team led by example how we get human rights work done during challenging times.’
- Contributing to a UN wide policy on the participation and protection of civil society at the national and international levels
- Supporting and enabling national-level human rights defenders to deliver powerful statements and personal testimony at the UN, including the wife of a detained defender in China, defenders working on accountability for crimes against humanity in Venezuela, defenders subject to reprisals in Egypt, partners in Guinea, and anti-racism defenders from France and Switzerland
- Working with the African Commission on Human & Peoples’ Rights to conduct its first ever virtual session and to develop and adopt a landmark resolution on a human rights-based approach to COVID-19 in Africa
- Contributing to the UN Security Council’s first ever dedicated discussion on reprisals and intimidation against women human rights defenders and peacebuilders
- Being independently evaluated as ‘the ‘go-to’ organisation when civil society is engaging with the UN human rights system’, as having collaboration and coalition building ‘as part of our DNA’, and as ‘an effective and influential organisation which is strengthening the work of human rights defenders by providing training, capacity-building, collaborative advocacy initiatives and access to international and regional mechanisms and policymakers.’
- Strengthening our own governance, transparency, accountability and sustainability, including through the establishment of a Working Group on Wellbeing and a Working Group on Non-Discrimination, Diversity and Inclusion which reports both to the Director and directly to the Board.
Thank you again for your support in 2020, and here is to a healthy, impactful 2021 where human rights defenders are properly recognised as humanity’s problem solvers, changemakers and essential workers, and have a seat at the table to create transformative change.
International Service for Human Rights
ISHR welcomes the Council’s historic consensus decision, led by the Africa Group, to adopt a resolution mandating an independent international expert mechanism to address systemic racism and to promote racial justice and equality for Africans and people of African descent. The adoption of this resolution is testament to the resilience, bravery and commitment of victims, their families, their representatives and anti-racism defenders globally.
At the 47th session of the Human Rights Council, ISHR along with the Informal Sector Service Center presented a joint statement in Nepal’s Universal Periodic Review expressing concern about the situation of human rights defenders in the country.
Faced with the appropriation of their name, Peruvian NGO Madres en Acción is pushing back, filing a legal action to recover it. In an amicus brief in support of the action, ISHR argues that trademark law is being used to attack defenders and this must stop.
With three more human rights defenders detained arbitrarily in recent days, once again the Human Rights Council was asked to do more to put pressure on Venezuela to allow dissenting voices in the country to be heard. Independent civil society makes a critical contribution to the construction of societies built on the respect of human rights.
In the first case on violence against trans people heard by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the Court held Honduras responsible for the transfemicide of human rights defender Vicky Hernández.
Public servants, journalists, and indigenous defenders have suffered targeting and reprisals from an increasingly brazen government, confirming the urgent need to adopt legal mechanisms for the protection of human rights defenders.
ISHR joins human rights organisations from across the globe in calling for the unconditional and immediate release of prominent Bahraini human rights defender Abdul-Hadi al-Khawaja, who turned 60 on 5 April.
The Martin Ennals Foundation has granted Yu Wensheng, a leading Chinese human rights lawyer, the 2021 Martin Ennals Award. Lawyer Yu was among the three finalists to the Award selected by a jury of ten global human rights organisations - among which ISHR -, along with Loujain AlHathloul from Saudi Arabia and Soltan Achilova from Turkmenistan.
It's difficult to encapsulate such a complex year in a word, but "interconnected" is one that comes to mind when reflecting on 2020. We are proud to have remained deeply interconnected with defenders and to have supported, protected and amplified their work at the national, regional and international levels. With them, the "essential workers" of our times, we strive for a 2021 full of freedom, equality, dignity and justice.
ISHR and NGO partners warmly welcome the UN Committee against Torture’s decision to host their first review of a State party since the beginning of the global pandemic, and the consideration of individual complaints which had also been suspended. With this decision, all UN Treaty Bodies have now taken steps to ensure the continuity of their mandate, including periodic reviews, which are crucial to State accountability.
Germain Rukuki's right to a swift and fair appeal against his prison sentence must be upheld, says a coalition of 43 NGOs in a joint letter to Burundi authorities.