International Society for Human Rights (ISHR)
At a glance
The International Society for Human Rights (ISHR) and its national branches are independent non-governmental human rights organisations (NGOs) which base their work on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaimed by the United Nations on 10 December 1948. ISHR seeks to promote international understanding and tolerance in all areas of culture and society. It is a non-profit organisation, independent of all political parties, governments or religious groups. It acts according to the philosophy that the realisation of human rights and the improvement of social conditions cannot be pursued by use of force. ISHR was founded in order to support individuals who share this principle and, consequently, claim their rights in a non-violent manner.
ISHR operates as a membership organisation with approximately 30.000 members in 38 states worldwide. ISHR has Consultative Status (Roster) with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations, Associated Status with the Department of Public Information (DPI) of the United Nations and Participative Status with the European Council. ISHR is mainly financed by membership fees and private donations and largely cooperates with different human rights organisations.
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.
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.
ISHR is a non-profit NGO. Its work is mainly done by honorary workers. 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.
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.
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. 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.
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 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".
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
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.
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 Lithuania, Rainer Bäurich, Nico Hübner, Dr. Dr. Karl Heinz Nitschke and others in the former German Democratic Republic.
Since 1977 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 new Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in their endeavour to build a democratic and just society. New sections were founded in the CIS, the first being working groups in Russia in 1989. At the same time, groups and sections formed in Africa and Latin and South America.