On October 13, 2012, a cheerful atmosphere of optimism surrounded the memorial place "Casa del Preso" in Miami. The International Society for Human Rights (ISHR) USA was founded. The Event was hosted by the International Society for Human Rights (ISHR/IGFM), German Section. Within the last years, numerous residents of the United States joined the organization. 74 people participated in the event, amongst them the Consul General Eva Countess Kendeffy, the president of Mothers and Women against Repression (M.A.R. por Cuba) Sylvia Iriondo and the president of the "Casa del Preso" Luis Infante.
The event was headed by the spokesman of the board of the ISHR, German Section, Martin Lessenthin. A commemoration of the civil rights activists Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas (Cuba), Laura Inés Pollán Toledo (Cuba), Václav Havel (Czech Republic) and Pierre Dubois (Chile) opened the event. All four civil rights activists were friends of the ISHR and deceased within the past 12 months.
Lessenthin reported on the work of the ISHR Germany since the organization was founded in 1972 in Frankfurt am Main. He illustrated the human rights work in the first 20 years with emphasis on East Germany, the Soviet Union and the human rights work IGFM is carrying out in Czechoslovakia/the Czech Republic and Cuba since 1977. Moreover, he explained how the ISHR, German Section, always encouraged and supported the founding of new ISHR groups in other countries and mentioned well known civil rights activists who were supported by the organization, amongst them Dr. Ricardo Bofill and Rudolfo González. Furthermore, Lessenthin reported on the current work of the ISHR, German Section, committed to freedom of opinion and religion. Today, the organization supports victims of human rights violations in one-party dictatorships like China, Cuba and Vietnam as well as in Islamic countries like Iran, Pakistan, Iraq and Egypt. He mentioned numerous examples for political, religious and ethnic persecution and pointed out that the ISHR USA should also envisage working in a broad scope of topics.
In the next part, Sylvia Iriondo, Prof. Samuel Zhou and Patricia Andrade informed about the human rights situation in Cuba, China and Venezuela. All three countries are of special importance for the work of the ISHR. Sylvia Iriondo also talked about the collaboration with the ISHR, German Section. Because of her numerous visits in Germany, she is well informed about the organization’s work and therefore encouraged the attendants to continue the paths of the ISHR, German section, in the United States. Prof. Zhou explained the relevance of media work via internet and satellite for the freedom of information and freedom of expression of people living for example in the People’s Republic of China. Afterwards, Patricia Andrade reported on the actual human rights situation in Venezuela after the presidential elections.
Chaired by the former Cuban political prisoner Normando Hernández González, nine board members were elected. The board members are (from left to right): Natalia Carvajal (New York), Patricia Andrade (Miami), Dr. Samuel Zhou (vice-chairman), Martin Lessenthin (Spokesman of the board ISHR Germany, chaired the event), Shafik Botros (Greenfield, Wisconsin), Normando Hernández (Miami, chairman), Pedro Pablo Alvarez Ramos (Miami), Dr. Mike Agaiby (Tampa, vice-chairman), Laida Carro (Miami), Dr. Darsi Ferrer (Miami, Medical Working Group), not in the picture: Erping Zhang (New York).
Dr. Darsi Ferrer (on the right) was designated head of the medical working group. Previously, Dr. Ferrer was honoured for his contribution to the founding of the IGFM Cuba. Dr. Ricardo Bofill and Jorge Luis García Pérez were honoured too, but unfortunately could not attend the event to receive the honour in person.
Also, the founders elected some members of the honorary board of the ISHR USA: Bob Fu, Frank Calzon, Dr. Jose Garcia Paneque, Dr. Reinhard Gnauck, Martin Lessenthin and Francis Azis. The newly elected board is aiming to encourage a number of human rights defenders and personalities to contribute to the work of the ISHR USA.
Mr. Lessenthin, ladies and gentlemen:
It is a pity that due to an unexpected family issue I had to forgo this trip to the sunny Miami, although I already made preparation for this IGFM meeting. Yet, my heart is with each and everyone of you, the freedom fighters and defenders.
I have had the pleasure to speak at an IGFM conference in Germany last year and was enormously impressed by the effort of IGFM in helping highlight critical global human rights issues, especially in this day and age of historical transition for mankind.
Despite some progress in the area of democratization around the world, we are also keenly aware that injustice and human rights abuses are rampant as ever in many regions, especially in Communist states such as China.
On the international front, China, being a dictatorship society, has vetoed many UN resolutions and sanctions on routine human rights violating states. China continues to provide military and technology assistance to rogue states, as well as influences world affairs via trade, market, and financial access.
On the domestic front, China is the largest human rights abuser on earth, executing more prisoners and imprisoning more journalists than the rest of the world combined. It continues to enforce one-child policy, censor the Internet, and worst still, it harvests organs for profit from prisoners of conscience, especially from detained practitioners of Falun Gong spiritual group. Last month, US Congress held a joint Committee hearing on organ harvesting of political and religious prisoners in China.
While Communism claims for equality, corruption however is the hallmark of this political system. Professor Carsten A. Holz, an economist at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology wrote on Far Eastern Economic Review: "We ignore the fact that of the 3.220 Chinese citizens with a personal wealth of 100 million yuan ($13 million) or more, 2.932 are children of high-level cadres. Of the key positions in the five industrial sectors - finance, foreign trade, land development, large-scale engineering and securities -85% to 90% are held by children of high-level cadres"
The Chinese public is already fed up with the deteriorating political institutions in China. There were over 100.000 group protests in China last year, though few Western media has reporte this.
Why are China issues so vital to the world? It is not only because of its products we consume daily, but also because its authoritarian values will also impact upon the way of life for the rest of the world. A Chinese cultural show called Shen Yun Performing Arts was canceled in Athens by the Greek government under pressure from Beijing because this show advocates human rights and traditional Chinese culture. Many democracy activists hold that if the Communist dictatorship collapses in China, civil society governed by rule of law would emerge in Asia, and elsewhere after all, much of the instability and security issues in Asia and elsewhere are related to the Communist dictatorship in China.
Our struggle is one not just for freedom of ourselves, but for all, especially for those non-democratic states. As long as lA of the world population remains under the control of Communist dictatorship, peace and freedom are at risk everywhere.
Every era has its defining moment - each and everyone of us is now living in an age when our conscience is fronted with historic choices: to side with history, justice, and humanity, or betray our character to remain silent or indifferent to injustice, brutality, and assault on the moral foundation of mankind today. If we don't choose to be part of the solution, we may well be part of the problem.
Lucius Seneca, the Roman philosopher said, "A kingdom founded on injustice never lasts." History shows that justice will prevail in the end and the light of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance will bring the hope to humanity and bless those who side with history.