The main areas of the work of the ISHR are:
1. Support Support of persons, who are persecuted, imprisoned and discriminated against because of their religious and/ or political beliefs,
2. Public relations in human rights issues,
3. Education in human rights issues for persons, who live in states, which are at present in a phase of transformation towards democracy,
4. Humanitarian aid.
The ISHR has monitored and criticised the human rights situation in many countries since its foundation in 1972. Several countries with a bad human rights record, especially the Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China, Vietnam and North Korea have been under observation from the beginning. Cuba has been under observation since 1977. Unfortunately, there has always been every reason to criticise their human rights records.
The ISHR is a recognised charitable non-profit NGO. Its work is mainly done by honorary workers. The ISHR does not receive any state or municipal subsidies; it does however seek appropriated subsidies from Phare and Tacis programmes developed by the European Commission for projects that support the establishment of civic societies in Eastern European countries.
The ISHR supports people, who promote the realisation of the basic human rights in their countries through non-violent means or who exert these rights and are prosecuted for this. The means to this are amongst others, appeals, petitions and remonstrative letters.
The ISHR informs about human rights abuses, because the attention of the public is an important prerequisite to solving individual fates and structural problems. However, public relations does not only involve informing the press or lobbying, but also informing and educating the general public as to what human rights signify and how fundamental they are as well as how to implement them. The ISHR arranges seminars about democracy, states under rule of law and human rights. One of the long-term campaigns of the ISHR is the effort to the overcome barbaric punishments such as stoning and amputations.
The ISHR renders humanitarian aid in the form of care packages and essential aid transports because it believes that the solving of humanitarian problems helps to support the realisation of human rights. Since 1980 the ISHR has helped those who could not expect enough government aid for political reasons, by supporting thousands of tons of “aid from one human being to another”.
In the past 10 years the ISHR has carried out many projects with financial help from the European Commission, amongst which are the search for witnesses and victims of war crimes in former Yugoslavia, the enforcement of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the humanisation of the military system in the Ukraine and the augmentation of the life proficiency of street and orphan asylum children in Eastern Europe.
ISHR history in brief
The ISHR was founded on April 8th in 1972 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, as “Gesellschaft für Menschenrechte“ (Society for Human Rights) by 13 people committed to human rights. It was at a time when Vladimir Bukovsky had just been sentenced to 12 years of labour camp and exile in to Siberia, because he had courageously demanded his right to free expression. Aleksander Solzhenitsyn had completed his "Archipelago Gulag", yet hardly anyone knew this man in the West. In those days, many people were demonstrating for Vietnam, but no one demonstrated for the thousands of political prisoners in Soviet labour camps, dying fugitives at the German-German border, persecuted people in Poland, Romania, Czechoslovakia and other states on the European continent. ISHR took up the cause of these people and tried its best to make the fates of those innumerable individuals known in the West.
The ISHR became known to the public in Germany due to its work with the political dissidents Bukowsky, Sacharow, Solchenizyn and Schtaransky in the former Soviet Union, with Vaclav Havel in the former Socialist Czechoslovakia, with Lech Walesa and the union movement Solidarnosc in the former People’s Republic of Poland and with the civil rights activists such as Vitautas Landsbergis in the Baltic States Lithuania, Estonia and Lithonia, Rainer Bäurich, Nico Hübner, Dr. Dr. Karl Heinz Nitschke and others in the former German Democratic Republic.
Since 1977 the ISHR has greatly influenced the process of the Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe, CSCE, (today Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, OSCE), particularly in the fields of freedom of movement and freedom of press.
In 1981 the “Society for Human Rights” was renamed into “International Society for Human Rights”. Over the years both the membership and the tasks of ISHR grew steadily. With the collapse of the Soviet Union ISHR''s tasks became even more diverse. It became an important matter for ISHR to support the newly independent states (NIS) in their endeavour to build a democratic and just society. New sections were founded in the NIS, the first being working groups in Russia in 1989. At the same time, groups and sections formed in Africa and Latin and South America.
The board of the German ISHR section includes among others Vitautas Landsbergis, former prime minister of Lithuania, Prof. Ludwig Erhardt (†), former German chancellor, Harry Wu, president of the Laogai Foundation U.S.A., Dr. Otto von Habsburg, Prof. Doan Viet Hoat and Prof. Dr. Dr. Alfred de Zayas.
International Projects with financial support from the European Commission
Improvement of Child-Welfare Programmes in St. Petersburg
Project to increase orphan’s ability to cope with life in order to prevent a later slide-off into criminality and prostitution. Project together with teachers, directors of the institutions and people that work in the field of child-welfare. Statistical inquiry about and evaluation of present and former orphans’ situation. Development, test and publication of the training programme “proficiency to life”. Development of a text- and studybook. Information and sensitisation of politicians and decision-makers who are in charge of the protection of children and youths. Duration: from 2003 to 2005.
Training for Democracy and Human Rights in the Ukrainian Armed Forces
30 seminars of several days’ duration in Ukrainian barracks for Commanders and other Officers in the higher service about soldier’s rights, Humanitarian International Law, International Criminal Law and the International Criminal Court. Furthermore lectures at ten military academies for students. A handbook for officers and a paperback book for recruits (“Handbook for Recruits”, edition: 120.000) have been published and distributed. Duration: from 2001 to 2004.
Citizens in Uniform – Human Rights-Education in the Ukrainian Armed Forces
15 two-day seminars in Ukrainian barracks about Humanitarian International Law for officers in the lower and median service. Duration: from 1997 to 1998.
Establishment of a print office for non-governmental organisations in Romania
Establishment of a print office in Bukarest in order to provide non-governmental organisations with the possibility to produce print products at low costs. Furthermore advanced training of specialists as well as seminar-programme for NGO-employees. Duration: 2000 until 2001. After the project’s completion the print office was able to continue its work – independent from external financing.
Information campaign about the International Criminal Court in East-European countries
Information campaign about the International Criminal Court for government officials, armed forces and multipliers in the civil society in Eastern European states. This included five seminars that lasted four days each in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova in which 20 representatives per state (primarily high-ranking public officials, members of the armed forces, State Attorneys, judges and professors) and 20 representatives of non-governmental organisations participated. Duration: from 1999 to 2001.
Campaign to support the establishment of an International Criminal Court
Campaign to inform and support a permanent International Criminal Court through press releases, publications, adverts, a photo-exhibition, speaking to multipliers and politicians in Germany. Duration: 1995 until 1996.
Strengthening of the Civil Society and NGO structure in Uzbekistan
Eleven seminars that lasted two days each and six seminars that lasted three days each for multipliers in administration, police, military and in NGOs concerning the establishment of a civil society in Uzbekistan in eight Uzbek provincial towns and in Tashkent. Duration: from 1999 to 2002.
Establishment of a civil society in the CIS
60 seminars that lasted two days each about the establishment of a civil society in eight large cities in Russia and in seven large cities in Ukraine for more than 3.000 multipliers. The goal of these seminars was to impart the basic mechanism of a democratic state with its institutions, to promote the idea of human rights protection and to support non-governmental organizations and their cooperation as well as interaction. Duration: from 1995 to 1996.
Support for victims of rape in former Yugoslavia
Establishment of a medical centre in Zagreb for medical and psychosocial support for female and male victims of sexual violence in former Yugoslavia. Implementation of a medical symposium in Zagreb. Duration: from 1994 to 1996.
Victims’ Voice – Voice of the victims
Search for witnesses and victims of war crimes in former Yugoslavia. Witnesses of war crimes were searched for through 35.000 questionnaires distributed in Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, and Serbia. About 17.000 of these questionnaires have been handed over to the investigating authority of the ad-hoc tribunal in The Hague. Duration: from 1994 to 1996.