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Together for human rights – IPHR annual report for 2023
Together for human rights – IPHR annual report for 2023

In keeping with its mission, International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) worked closely together with civil society partners to promote human rights in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia in 2023.

The past year posed substantial challenges for human rights in our region. Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine inflicted widespread destruction, suffering, and human misery. Across our target region, authoritarian regimes continued and intensified their repressive campaigns against civil society, independent media, and dissenting voices. They also failed to adequately protect vulnerable populations and promote sustainable development in different sectors of society.

Despite the bleak circumstances, civil society actors across Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia persisted in their tireless efforts to protect human rights. During the year, we engaged with a diverse range of civil society partners in the region, from well-established NGOs to emerging grassroots organisations. In accordance with our mission, we worked to support them in their unwavering pursuit of human rights, justice, and the rule of law in their countries.

Throughout the year, our focus on documenting and promoting accountability for war crimes perpetrated in the context of Russia’s war against Ukraine remained paramount. In cooperation with local and international partners, we deployed a set of cohesive, mutually reinforcing approaches, to gather evidence of atrocities and spearhead efforts to ensure that perpetrators are held responsible.

At the same time, we continued our work in other countries in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia, implementing tailored capacity-building initiatives to strengthen the knowledge and skills of our local partners and working closely with them to expose human rights abuses, advocate for an end to violations, and provide support to victims.

In a new initiative, we undertook a comprehensive research project to identify the primary needs of human rights defenders living in exile and pinpoint gaps in the available support mechanisms. The findings of this study will guide further efforts to develop support initiatives in the years ahead.

As we responded to the growing challenges and the increasing need for support for civil society actors in our region, our team expanded, recruiting new staff members in finance, administration, and various other roles. IPHR’s team operates from our main offices in Brussels, Kyiv, and Tbilisi, alongside several other cities across Europe and the US.

We would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to all our partners for our cooperation throughout 2023. Additionally, we extend our sincere appreciation to our donors for their support, which has enabled us to continue, fortify, and broaden our endeavours over the past year. Our dedication remains steadfast as our journey continues.

Our work in Eastern Europe and the South Caucasus

Ukraine

As a key priority in 2023, IPHR worked on investigating, documenting and ensuring accountability for war crimes and other gross human rights violations committed during Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine. This involved the meticulous collection, authentication, preservation, and processing of evidence of atrocities, as well as the use of such evidence in public reports, legal submissions and sanctions designation requests. Additionally, IPHR employed innovative strategies to facilitate access to justice for victims. Throughout these efforts, IPHR cooperated closely with Truth Hounds, Crimea SOS and other leading Ukrainian civil society actors. We also coordinated with international civil society initiatives such as the Business for Ukraine Coalition (B4Ukraine). Legal practitioners from Global Diligence played a vital role in the preparation of thorough legal analyses and submissions. We also maintained close contacts with Ukrainian judicial authorities.

In order to compile evidence needed to ensure accountability for atrocities, IPHR and partners documented killings of civilians; torture and ill-treatment; enforced disappearances; cases of unlawful confinement of civilians; violations related to filtration processes; the forcible transfer of civilians, in particular children; conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV); and attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure. We prioritised investigations of crimes which were of the gravest nature and/or affected the largest number of people, and where we were confident that we had the capacity to successfully conclude the investigations.

We coordinated with other civil society, government-led and international investigations on an ongoing basis to ensure complementarity of efforts. We cooperated closely with the office of Ukraine’s Prosecutor General (OPG) on investigations into CRSV. In another joint initiative, IPHR teamed up with the Humanitarian Research Lab of Yale University to investigate the forced separation of Ukrainian children from their parents and their deportation to territories temporarily occupied by Russia or to Russia itself.

During the year, IPHR organised more than 20 fact-finding missions to areas in Ukraine affected by Russian military aggression. During these missions, we collected evidence of international crimes and abuses, and carried out more than 300 interviews with victims and witnesses.

We also trained and coached more than 40 Ukrainian civil society representatives on the investigation of core international crimes using criminal law standards. In an effort to ensure trauma-informed and victim-centred documentation practices and provide practical support to survivors of international crimes, IPHR broadened its partnerships with multiple Ukrainian organisations specialising in psycho-social assistance for survivors.

To complement our field work, we conducted investigations utilising open-source intelligence (OSINT) to help corroborate findings, build cases and link crimes with suspected perpetrators, thereby improving the prospects of achieving accountability. Our OSINT investigations resulted in the compilation, verification, and archiving of thousands of files and materials.   

The evidence collected through fact-finding and OSINT investigations was processed, analysed and used for submissions to Ukraine’s Office of the Prosecutor General (OPG) and the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Two ICC communications had been filed with the ICC at the end of the year, with three more pending submission in 2024. We also shared the findings of our investigations with other key stakeholders in- and outside Ukraine, including the UN Commission of Enquiry on Ukraine, the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, the ICC Investigation Team in Ukraine, and international institutions and governments. We did so both through ongoing communication and face-to-face meetings held in Kyiv and elsewhere.

We conducted targeted advocacy with the EU as part of our efforts to ensure accountability for atrocities in Ukraine. We engaged with the European External Action Service (EEAS), relevant directorates and offices of the European Commission, the Special Envoy for the Implementation of EU Sanctions, and EU Member State authorities, which are involved in the designation and enforcement of sanctions.

During the year, we organised three rounds of advocacy meetings with EU stakeholders for members of B4Ukraine, a coalition comprising over 80 Ukrainian and international CSOs. B4Ukraine focuses on promoting responsible business conduct in relation to Russia’s war against Ukraine and disrupting financial and material support of Russia’s warfare. The meetings covered issues such as addressing existing sanctions loopholes and ensuring corporate due diligence and helped identify opportunities for cooperation with EU institutions in these areas.

Together with Frontline, we also co-organised a series of meetings for the Media Initiative for Human Rights (MIHR) in Brussels in July 2023. These meetings supported MIHR’s advocacy concerning the plight of Ukrainian civilian hostages in Russia. Additionally, we helped organise a European Parliament event on the issue of civilian hostages on 6 July 2023.

IPHR and partners published several reports on war crimes and violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) documented during Russia’s war against Ukraine. For example, a report published in November 2023 provided evidence of killings of civilians, torture and other atrocities committed by Russian armed forces in two neighbouring villages in Kharkiv Oblast, which were under Russian occupation for several months in 2022.

The report, “When ‘russkiy mir’ comes: War crimes and IHL violations committed by Russian armed forces in Hrakove and Zaliznychne”.

Another report, published earlier in the year, documented similar crimes committed during the Russian occupation of three villages located on the outskirts of Kyiv in February-April 2022. We also published two comprehensive reports on the use of Western weapon components during Russian attacks in Ukraine (see more in the section on Russia).

This report by International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR), Truth Hounds, and Global Diligence LLP sets out evidence of war crimes committed by the Russian armed forces in three localities on the western outskirts of Kyiv between 27 February and early April 2022 – Motyzhyn, Kopyliv and Severynivka.

We disseminated our reports widely among policymakers and broader audiences, garnering significant media attention in both Ukraine and Europe. Over the year, we cultivated relationships with influential Ukrainian and European media outlets, ensuring regular coverage of our investigative findings.

In December 2023, IPHR and State Capture published a practical guide for civil society actors on EU sanctions. The guide covers the legal and policy framework for sanctions adoption, explains differences between different types of sanctions, discusses the standard of proof for designations, and, crucially, provides hands-on information on drafting submissions. The guide is intended to help improve civil society capacity to use sanctions designation requests in the fight against impunity for serious abuses perpetrated during Russia’s war against Ukraine and elsewhere.

Practical Guide to EU Sanctions for Civil Society sets out the legal framework for EU sanctions and provides practical advice on how to make recommendations for EU sanctions and whom to approach.

Russia

As described above (see the section on Ukraine), IPHR worked closely with partners on investigating, documenting and seeking accountability for atrocities committed during Russia’s war against Ukraine. We focused on ensuring accountability for both perpetrators of abuses and those enabling them. This included the submission of sanctions requests to relevant bodies and institutions.

During the year, we also exposed the use of Western-produced weapon components during Russia’s war against Ukraine. We published two reports linking such components to war crimes investigated by our field team, using weapon remnants found at war crime sites across Ukraine. The first report, ‘Enabling War Crimes? Western-Made Components in Russia’s War Against Ukraine’, published in February 2023, looked at four types of Russian missiles featuring Western components, which were used to attack civilian infrastructure.

This report has found that western-made components have been and continue to be used within weapons involved in Russian suspected war crimes. 

The second report, released in July 2023, identified Western manufactured components in unmanned Russian combat aerial vehicles (UAVs), which also were used to attack civilian infrastructure, including critical energy infrastructure. The reports set out recommendations to policymakers and businesses for how to prevent Russia from accessing and using Western technology to produce weapons. Both reports received wide coverage in Ukrainian and international media and were shared with relevant target institutions, governments and other stakeholders.

The report titled ‘Terror in the details: Western-made Components in Russia’s Shahed-136 Attacks’, has found that Russian forces have used Iranian-made Shahed-136 UAVs that contain Western components to commit suspected war crimes in Ukraine.

In September 2023, IPHR and Global Diligence published another comprehensive report that explored the Kremlin’s digital authoritarianism – its use of digital technology to monitor, suppress, and influence both domestic and foreign populations.

The report “Russia’s Digital Authoritarianism: the Kremlin’s Toolkit” analyses key repressive technologies employed by Putin’s regime, including facial recognition and the Smart City Programme, the System of Operative Investigative Measures (SORM), and the sovereign Internet, also known as the Ru.net project.

As Russia’s crackdown on civil society further widened, IPHR continued to provide support and capacity-building to Russian civil society groups in the implementation of their important missions.

Belarus

In 2023, we teamed up with several exiled Belarusian organisations working to hold President Aleksandr Lukashenko accountable for his role in enabling serious human rights violations perpetrated during Russia’s war in Ukraine. We partnered with these organisations to gather evidence indicating that the displacement of Ukrainian children from Russian-occupied territories to Belarus constitutes a war crime under the Rome Statute. With support from IPHR, a submission on this issue was filed with the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC in December 2023.

The South Caucasus

IPHR continued supporting a diverse group of civil society activists, journalists, and human rights lawyers in Azerbaijan, cooperating with both established NGOs and emerging groups. IPHR provided support, for example, for media work (including through the prominent Meydan TV outlet), legal assistance programmes, initiatives to build new generations of HRDs and legal professionals, and actions to raise awareness of human rights through arts. Our UK-based partner European Human Rights Advocacy Centre took the lead on joint strategic litigation initiatives on priority issues.

Additionally, IPHR worked with civil society partners on advocacy efforts targeting the EU and the Council of Europe, placing particular emphasis on cases of politically motivated prosecution at a time of increasing repression in the country. For example, IPHR collaborated with other groups to advocate for the release of well-known activist Gubad Ibadoghlu, who was arrested in July 2023. In November 2023, IPHR co-organised a series of advocacy meetings in Brussels for Ibadoghlu’s daughter Zhala Bayramova, enabling her to discuss her father’s case with key EU stakeholders. IPHR also raised concerns about a wave of arrests of journalists in Azerbaijan in late 2023 (see our statement on this issue).

In response to Azerbaijan’s military operation resulting in the takeover of Nagorno-Karabakh in September 2023, IPHR initiated a new project aimed at supporting civil society efforts to investigate the forced transfer of the ethnic Armenian population in the region. In collaboration with the Democracy Development Foundation, we assisted a coalition of leading Armenian civil society organisations to develop a methodology for conducting investigations and provided training to local investigative teams on interview techniques for probing international crimes. Going forward, IPHR will support its partners in evidence collection, reporting, and strategic litigation to ensure accountability for forced displacements.

IPHR published a report entitled “Probing the frontiers of criminality: investigating attacks on civilians and abuse of Armenian POWs,” which provides evidence of violations of IHL and war crimes committed by Azerbaijani armed forces in the Armenian provinces of Gegharkunik, Syunik and Vayots Dzor in September 2022. The report is based on information collected during an IPHR fact-finding mission to Armenia, as well as analyses of visual materials collected through open-source investigations.

Probing the frontiers of criminality:
Investigating attacks on civilians and abuse of Armenian POWs.

IPHR’s work on Georgia centred on supporting local civil society in the face of increasing government attempts to curb the right to protest and freedom of expression. This occurred against  a backdrop of democratic backsliding, growing Russian influence, and a wavering commitment to European values and the rule of law. Although an initiative to adopt a Russian-style foreign agent law was eventually abandoned following civil society protests, other restrictive laws endangering civil society activity were pursued.

IPHR conducted trainings on security issues and protest monitoring, launched an outreach and advocacy campaign, and collaborated with local influencers for increased outreach. In particular, we worked with the Human Rights Centre and the Georgian Young Lawyers Association on the preparation and dissemination of a comprehensive guide designed to inform protest organisers and participants about their rights and obligations, including in cases when the police deploys forcible measures.

This guide aims to raise awareness and provide organizers and participants of public assemblies with information regarding their rights and responsibilities. 

In follow-up to the publication of this guide, we produced a series of engaging TikTok videos aimed at raising awareness among young people who are not well-versed in Georgian assembly laws. We launched a total of seven videos, which attracted over 120,000 views on average, thereby significantly expanding our outreach and impact among the youth.

In April 2023, we facilitated an advocacy visit to Brussels for several Georgian civil society organisations, including the Social Justice Centre, Platform Komentari, and Human Rights Centre.

Despite the deteriorating political climate in Georgia, IPHR’s Tbilisi Office continued to serve as a resource hub for human rights defenders, activists, and journalists from neighbouring countries, providing tailored support and guidance to individuals at risk.

Our work in Central Asia

In 2023, we continued to work closely together with local partners to address pressing human rights issues in the five Central Asian countries: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Our work focused on civil society support and capacity-building, research and documentation, as well as advocacy and outreach. Each of these areas of work is described below.

Support and capacity-building

While continuing our cooperation with established NGOs and NGO networks, we also reached out to emerging and grassroots groups defending the rights of women, children, people with disabilities, LGBTI and other vulnerable groups in the region.

We initiated, established and developed cooperation with more than two dozen new civil society partners. We allocated small grants to support the work of such groups, assisted them with fundraising, organised expert-led training sessions for them, and worked with them on documentation, advocacy and awareness-raising.

During the year, we organised a series of expert-led training sessions and consultations for NGO members, human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists on key issues related to their work.

For example, in Uzbekistan, we trained civil society representatives on international human rights standards, advocacy strategies, interview techniques, strategic planning, project development, monitoring and evaluation, and physical and digital security. In Tajikistan, we worked with partners to train selected representatives from civil society groups and journalists on monitoring and awareness-raising on anti-discrimination issues, as well as on the national human rights strategy and action plan. In Kyrgyzstan, we provided training and mentoring to NGO representatives on the application of a new comprehensive methodology for monitoring the criminal justice system. In Uzbekistan, we translated training modules into local languages to increase their accessibility to local groups. In Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, we also launched calls for small grants to support civil society monitoring and engagement on issues covered by capacity-building.

As civic space continued to deteriorate across Central Asia, there was a rising demand for emergency support from civil society representatives in the region. In coordination with other organisations and programmes offering such assistance, and following thorough needs assessments, we allocated a number of small emergency grants to Central Asian human rights activists, journalists, bloggers, and lawyers at risk. Additionally, we facilitated access to legal assistance and, in certain cases where there were no other viable options, supported relocation efforts.

Research and documentation

We collaborated closely with local partners to conduct research and document human rights violations across Central Asia, disseminating this information through various publications such as reports, briefing papers, updates, statements, and appeals. These publications were shared with international institutions, governments, and policymakers, as well as broader international audiences, to raise awareness and mobilise support for human rights causes. Our publications served as essential advocacy tools.

At the beginning of the year, we published a thematic report on the use of torture during the so-called Bloody January 2022 events in Kazakhstan, We don’t even cry anymore, together with Kazakhstan Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law (KIBHR), the NGO Coalition against Torture in Kazakhstan, and the World Organisation against Torture (OMCT). The report highlighted the failure of the authorities to conduct impartial and effective investigations into widespread allegations of torture and ill-treatment related to the January events and to hold the perpetrators accountable. It was launched at a well-attended hybrid event targeted at government officials, representatives of the international community and civil society in Astana in January 2023.

“We don’t even cry anymore”. Torture, ill-treatment and impunity in Kazakhstan in connection with the ‘Bloody January’ events. This report is available in English, Russian, and Kazakh languages.

We continued our cooperation with the CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform dedicated to tracking civic space worldwide. Through this collaboration, IPHR and its local partners produced a series of updates on the protection of the freedoms of expression, association, and assembly in the Central Asian countries. These updates enabled us to draw attention to the increasing challenges facing civil society in the region, reaching a broad international audience. Our updates also fed into the annual flagship publication of the CIVICUS Monitor, People Power under Attack, which provides country ratings and analysis of civil society trends across the globe. Due to the recent alarming deterioration in the situations in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, the civic space ratings of these two countries were downgraded during the year. Kyrgyzstan’s rating shifted from ‘obstructed’ to ‘repressed’, aligning it with Kazakhstan, while Tajikistan’s rating changed from ‘repressed’ to ‘closed’, a classification already assigned to Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Together with partners, we prepared tailored submissions to international institutions, furnishing them with relevant, timely and firsthand information regarding developments in the Central Asian countries.

We used important opportunities to inform and influence EU engagement by preparing briefing papers prior to the EU’s bilateral human rights dialogues with the Central Asian governments, visits of EU leaders and delegations to the region, and other meetings with regional governments. For example, ahead of President of the European Council Charles Michel’s visit to Kyrgyzstan in June 2023 for high-level meetings with Central Asian leaders, IPHR and Central Asian partners jointly sent him an open letter, providing an update on key human rights issues in the region. We  urged him to raise these concerns with regional leaders and ask for concrete measures to address them.

During the year, IPHR and partners submitted written reports to various UN human rights bodies, which assessed the implementation of international human rights standards in Central Asian states. These efforts included  a report on Turkmenistan presented to the UN Human Rights Committee together with Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights (TIHR), and a report on Kazakhstan submitted to the UN Committee Against Torture together with the Kazakhstani Coalition against Torture and OMCT. We also submitted reports to the UN Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, jointly prepared with TIHR in the case of Turkmenistan and with Nota Bene and the NGO Coalition against Torture and Impunity in the case of Tajikistan. Additionally, in cooperation with TIHR and Association for Human Rights in Central Asia, we prepared documents on Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan as contributions to the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of these countries. Our submissions played an important role in ensuring that pressing issues were addressed within the framework of the review processes.

Prior to the OSCE’s Warsaw Human Dimension Conference in October 2023, IPHR and our Central Asian partners published an overview of current key concerns regarding the protection of the freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly across the region’s five countries. This joint briefing paper drew attention to the growing threats to civic space and freedoms in Central Asia. It was disseminated during the conference and used in advocacy meetings, as well as distributed more widely among international stakeholders.

During the year, we collaborated with our local, regional, and international partners to publish more than two dozen statements, appeals, and open letters on alarming human rights developments in the Central Asian countries. These communications highlighted measures taken by regional governments in their crackdowns on independent civil society and media, such as the introduction of a restrictive foreign agent-style law in Kyrgyzstan, an initiative to close down the independent Kloop news portal in the same country, and the dissolution of a prominent human rights NGO in Tajikistan. We also raised awareness about individual cases of persecution involving human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists, and activists across the region. For example, we issued statements in support of opposition leader Marat Zhylanbaev in Kazakhstan, blogger Otabek Sattoriy in Uzbekistan and human rights defender Manuchehr Kholiqnazarov in Tajikistan, who have all been imprisoned on politically motivated charges. We also called for a transparent and fair trial for the activists prosecuted in the so-called Kempir-Abad case in Kyrgyzstan. In relation to Turkmenistan, we condemned an instance in which independent journalist Soltan Achilova was barred from travelling abroad. Additionally, we highlighted the plight of victims of serious human rights violations, including victims of torture and forded evictions.

Through our communications, we provided visibility to individual cases and broader human rights issues in Central Asia, while also facilitating support and interventions in such cases.

Our statements, appeals and open letters issued during the year are available

Advocacy and communications

Throughout the year, we collaborated with partners to strategically engage with international institutions on priority issues in Central Asia. Against the backdrop of heightened international interest in the region, particularly in light of the evolving geopolitical dynamics following Russia’s war against Ukraine, our advocacy efforts were geared towards ensuring that the region’s international partners use their engagement to press for concrete human rights improvements.

Building upon our publications (see the previous section), we conducted targeted advocacy with key stakeholders in Brussels, Geneva, Warsaw, and other relevant locations to draw attention to our concerns and shape their actions pertaining to Central Asia.

Engaging with the EU remained a top priority in our advocacy initiatives. We maintained regular communication with key contacts at the European External Action Service, the office of the EU Special Representative for Central Asia, representatives of EU member states, members of the European Parliament, and other relevant EU institutions.

Our efforts included sharing updates on regional developments, participating in briefings with EU stakeholders, and providing tailored input ahead of the EU’s human rights and political dialogues with Central Asian countries, as well as visits of EU officials and European Parliament delegations to the region, and other interactions between EU representatives and regional governments. Our information informed the agenda of these meetings, with key issues reflected in press releases and other public communications. In our interactions with the European Parliament, we contributed to the resolutions on Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan adopted during the year, as well as a report on the EU’s Central Asia Strategy adopted in early 2024.

In addition to raising concerns with EU stakeholders jointly on behalf of IPHR and our partners, we also facilitated several advocacy meetings in Brussels for Central Asian colleagues. For instance, in October 2023, in cooperation with the Soros Foundation Kyrgyzstan, IPHR organised an advocacy visit for a group of Kyrgyzstani civil society representatives. The purpose was to share pertinent information and recommendations regarding current human rights issues in the country.

While our primary focus was on engaging Brussels-based EU institutions, we also conducted advocacy efforts targeting EU member state governments. For instance, we engaged with the French and German foreign ministries ahead of bilateral meetings that President Macron and Chancellor Scholz had with regional leaders. Additionally, as part of increasing advocacy efforts toward UK authorities, we provided the UK’s Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) with an overview of key challenges, risks, and opportunities in Central Asia that impact UK foreign policies. A FAC report published in November 2023 extensively highlighted several concerns raised by us and made multiple references to the information we had provided.

In follow-up to the submission of written reports (as detailed in the previous section), IPHR and partners engaged in advocacy with UN human rights bodies that reviewed the situation in Central Asian countries. For instance, in August 2023, we conducted joint advocacy in Geneva ahead of the Universal Periodic Reviews (UPRs) of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. This included participation in the UPR pre-session organised by the NGO UPR-Info and meetings with Permanent Missions of UN member states. During these events we highlighted concerns and recommendations outlined in our written submissions for the reviews of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Our written submissions, coupled with subsequent advocacy efforts, ensured that key concerns raised by IPHR and partners were addressed and reflected in the conclusions and recommendations resulting from the reviews.

At the OSCE level, IPHR disseminated information to OSCE institutions and used human dimension events to highlight priority issues. For example, during the Warsaw Human Dimension Conference in October 2023, IPHR co-organized a side-event focusing on the human rights implications of the January 2022 events in Kazakhstan, and participated in the panel of another side-event examining the drivers of instability in the region. We delivered a statement addressing civic space challenges in Central Asia at the conference plenary and held advocacy meetings with OSCE state delegations, in addition to facilitating discussions between local partners and state representatives. During the OSCE Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting in Vienna in April 2023, IPHR co-organised a side event commemorating the 20-year anniversary of a systematic campaign of repression in Turkmenistan, initiated following an alleged assassination attempt on the then-president. We also facilitated advocacy meetings between our Vienna-based Turkmenistani partner, Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights, and OSCE state delegations, as well as the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In addition to conducting advocacy at the international level, we cooperated with partners to convey concerns and recommendations to national authorities whenever possible. For instance, in April 2023, IPHR and our partners from KIBHR and the Coalition against Torture held meetings with Kazakhstani government representatives in Astana to discuss the recommendations outlined in our joint report concerning the use of torture during the January 2022 events. We also engaged former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak, to participate in these meetings.

We carried out ongoing outreach on human rights issues in Central Asia through our website, social media, and email campaigns. In addition, we worked with partners to implement targeted video and social media campaigns in selected cases of victims of human rights violations.

For example, together with several other international NGOs, we prepared a video in support of human rights defender Manuchehr Kholiqnazarov, unjustly imprisoned in Tajikistan. The video was released in English, Russian and Tajik together with a call to send messages of solidarity to him and letters of concern to the Tajikistani authorities.

Publications issued by IPHR and Central Asian partners were regularly covered by independent regional media, which helped to garner attention and mobilise support on issues and cases of concern to us. During the year, several IPHR op-eds were published in regional and international outlets on human rights issues of concern in the Central Asian countries.

Supporting human rights defenders in exile

In 2023, IPHR carried out a large-scale research project on human rights defenders (HRDs) living in exile, identifying the key needs of this group and the gaps in the support on offer to the, with to producing evidence-based findings and recommendations guiding efforts to develop support initiatives in the coming years.

The research design was developed with the help of representatives of over 20 key international protection organisations, who took part in a roundtable event held in Brussels in December 2022 for that purpose. In subsequent months, IPHR staff and project consultants conducted in-depth interviews with 44 HRDs living in exile hailing from Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Europe whose displacement had lasted from two years to over a decade. In addition, IPHR reviewed written survey responses from a further 98 HRDs living in exile, who completed a detailed online questionnaire which was widely disseminated by IPHR through its networks and shared by the UN Special Rapporteur on HRDs.

In June 2023, IPHR shared the preliminary findings of its research on the margins of the annual meeting of the EU’s Temporary Relocation Platform, where representatives from 30 key organisations from around the world provided feedback and assisted in designing recommendations based on the findings.

The report produced based on the data collected was published on 5 October 2023. The following day, IPHR presented the report’s key findings at a well-attended side event organised by the OSCE/ODIHR at the Warsaw Human Dimension Conference.

Life in Exile: A comprehensive investigation of the challenges facing and support provided to human rights defenders in long-term relocation.

Having collected detailed information on the experiences of 142 HRDs in exile from around the world, with additional inputs from dozens of key stakeholder organisations, IPHR’s study stands out for the richness of its dataset. As one of few available in-depth investigations on this topic, it will serve as a vital tool for organisations designing improved programmes aimed at exiled HRDs.

Together with Justice & Peace Netherlands, IPHR has begun developing follow-up initiatives aimed at addressing the needs identified by the research, with a view to launching a pilot project in 2024 centred around institutional support to displaced organisations and adaptation support for individual HRDs in exile.

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