Together for Human Rights IPHR annual report 2020

2020 has been intense, a year of adaptation, innovation and mutual support. Together we explored new methods of interaction, of living together while protecting each other, and of accomplishing our goals.

Check out our video to learn about the highlights of IPHR’s work with partners to promote human rights in 2020.

Supporting Local Partners

In accordance with our mission of empowering local civil society groups, throughout 2020, we engaged in efforts to improve and reinforce the capacity of our partners, secure much-needed financial support for them and reinforce their capacity through online practical trainings
“Thanks to IPHR we held on and were able to provide all possible assistance.”

— Izzatilla Rakhmatilaev, NGO representative in South Kazakhstan

Human Rights Impact Hub

In December 2020, IPHR launched a new initiative – the “Human Rights Impact Hub”. It focuses on three innovative areas of human rights litigation that are currently underexplored in the region: universal jurisdiction (UJ), targeted sanctions and climate justice. The Hub’s mission is to provide lawyers with the practical skills necessary for successful litigation in these areas.

We plan to include additional thematic areas (such as gender justice and the right to protest) in the hub project in 2021.

Responding to Crises


IPHR responded to the post-election crisis in Belarus by deploying monitors to investigate and document allegations of the excessive use of force by law enforcement authorities and other human rights violations in the immediate aftermath of the elections.

We documented the widespread and systematic persecution of civil society leaders by gathering testimonies from Belarusian citizens who had been forced to flee to neighbouring countries.

This evidence will be used to support our request to the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to open an investigation in relation to the current situation in Belarus.

In August, we teamed up with Bellingcat to collect, verify and analyse open source evidence of right violations occurring in Belarus.

After months of collection and verification of material evidence by more than 50 volunteers and experts, we created an interactive online map, which offers visual access to our documentation of human rights violations in Belarus.

Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict

As new hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan erupted over the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region in late September 2020, IPHR together with our Ukrainian partner Truth Hounds organised a monitoring and training mission to Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Our documentation efforts focused on grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions regardless of who committed them.

Truth Hounds’ team conducted practical trainings on documenting violations of international humanitarian law for Azeri and Armenian CSO representatives while visiting the respective capitals.

“A partnership that aims to draw attention to human rights problems and react to violations in an effective way has to be consistent and passionate at the same time. That’s exactly how the IPHR team works. Thank you so much for existing!”

— Saimuddin Dustov, Executive Director of the European Congress of Tajik Journalists and Bloggers

Advocacy and Outreach

International Advocacy Work

In 2020, IPHR continued its advocacy work, targeting relevant bodies and officials of the European Union (EU), the Council of Europe, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the United Nations (UN) and individual governments.

As offline gatherings were postponed due to the pandemic, press conferences or personal meetings were replaced by online events.

IPHR organised a series of webcasts to advocate our monitoring results and recommendations regarding state responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on human rights. All webcasts were conducted via Zoom and livestreamed via Facebook.

Outreach to Grassroot Organisations in Central Asia

A new strand of IPHR’s work in Central Asia in 2020 allowed us to undertake outreach and provide support to small, grassroots civil society groups in the region.

IPHR assisted several new partners with fundraising applications, and, with the approval of our board of Central Asian experts, we allocated some 25 small grants to local civil society groups providing assistance to vulnerable groups of the population, as well as for emergency assistance.

  • In Tajikistan: five grassroots women’s groups, one women’s shelter, one NGO which defends the rights of disabled persons, one NGO which supports victims of trafficking;
  • In Uzbekistan: one volunteer grassroots group, one initiative group, six grassroots women’s selfhelp groups, one initiative to defend housing rights;
  • In Kyrgyzstan: one NGO based in Osh, one grassroots self-help project and one volunteer network supporting three projects for vulnerable women and children.
“Thank you very much for participating in this unique action. You inspired hope when I already ceased to believe.”

— Sitora Kurbanova, Tajik human rights defender leading an organisation which advocates for the rights of persons with disabilities. IPHR purchased a wheelchair to expand Kurbanova’s opportunities and support her active work in the field.

Working Toward the Implementation of Judgments of the European Court of Human Rights

Relying on the pro-bono support from global law firms WhilmerHale and DLA Piper IPHR filed two submissions concerning Azerbaijan to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe under the Rule 9.2 procedure of the Rules of the Implementation of the European Court of Human Rights in the Muradova group of cases and the Mammadov group of cases.

The cases all relate to issues of excessive use of force by the security forces and the state’s failure to effectively investigate allegations of ill-treatment, torture and death in custody, as well as disproportionate use of force by the police during demonstrations, including against journalists.

Human Rights Research and Publications Work

The reports and briefing papers we prepared together with partners helped international institutions to understand current and rapidly evolving human rights situations in the former Soviet Union and informed their policies toward these countries. Our publications also helped provide visibility to individual cases and situations of human rights violations in our target region that otherwise would have received little attention, thus ensuring interventions in such cases.

“On behalf of the LGBTQI+ community I express our gratitude and appreciation for your grand contribution in releasing a joint statement on the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Uzbekistan. Thank you for your continuous support and efforts in promoting the rule of law and the respect of human rights globally.”

— An Uzbek gay man living abroad (his name has been withheld for his and his family’s safety).

IPHR’s Response to the COVID-19 Crisis

In April 2020, IPHR devised a simple and practical tool aimed at systematic collection of data on human rights violations occurring in the context of governments’ COVID-19 responses.

“When the world suddenly decided to test us for strength, knowing people and organisations that make this world a better place helped me not to lose heart. We have been interacting with IPHR for several years and this is one of those teams with which you want to work and is really effective. Thank you for your cooperation, advice, and overall support”.

— Ira Dacenko, Crimea SOS

Based on systematic monitoring, IPHR and partners prepared a series of reports assessing the human rights impact of state responses to COVID-19.

We published country reports on the COVID-19 impact in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine (including Crimea).

In addition, we published a regional overview of key trends affecting the protection of fundamental rights in Central Asia during the pandemic, highlighting similarities and differences in the governments’ responses to the crisis in the five countries of this region.

Outreach and Communications

In 2020, IPHR implemented creative solutions to make sure that our target audiences were well-informed about the activities and initiatives of our organisation and our partners during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an effort to expand our outreach and tap into the possibilities offered by the growing popularity of podcasting as a medium of communication, we launched an IPHR podcast– Human Rights Survival Guide.

The podcast features experts, local activists and policy makers who speak about current human rights issues, challenges and opportunities for global civil society.

Based on an IPHR field trip to Tajikistan in 2019, during which we visited five local women’s support groups, we launched an information campaign called #НЕТЕРПИНАСИЛИЕ in support of victims of domestic violence and women’s self-help groups. The campaign features five videos sharing individual stories of women helping each other to cope with trauma and start a new life free from domestic violence.

To further improve the position of Tajik women in remote villages, especially during the pandemic, we launched a fundraiser to support women’s self-help groups.

Our growing team in Brussels and Tbilisi is ready to reach new milestones in promoting human rights and supporting civil society in the former Soviet Union and worldwide – and its only thanks to you: our partners, donors, and other supporters around the world that we are able to do it.

Thank You!

Sincerely, the IPHR team

Created By