On 24 February 2022, many people held their breath. The world looked at Europe: as part of the world, where peace was almost taken for granted and self-determination of people was perceived as guaranteed. Russia damaged this image with its war of aggression in violation of international law and has been perpetrating acts of violence against the Ukrainian people ever since. Reports from cities like Bucha in April 2022 are evidence of massive human rights violations. Crimes such as the deprivation of essential basic services or the destruction of civilian infrastructure must result in clear consequences on the part of the international community.
In April, Gerhart R. Baum and I filed an extensive criminal complaint with the German Federal Prosecutor’s Office in Karlsruhe with strong evidence against members of the Russian Security Council and those responsible in the command structures of the Russian military for crimes against humanity and war crimes. It is time to uphold international criminal law in the face of these unimaginable violations. There must be a clear response through intensive investigations and prosecution of the aggressors and perpetrators of this massive breach of international law. The war in Ukraine is not the only human rights challenge.
This report offers you impressions of the liberal human rights work of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom in 2022. Working for the realization and observance of human rights is often uncomfortable, protracted and dangerous. In many countries, serious human rights violations are part of the daily life, and people suffer from discrimination, oppression, uncertainty and fear. In many countries, including Venezuela, the quality of school education is poor. In South Africa, whistleblowers risk their lives to provide information to the democrats. In Lebanon, members of the LGBTQI+ community are condemned and marginalized. Women are forcefully married, not allowed to freely express their opinions, and are deliberately disadvantaged in social life.
The Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom has set itself the goal of not only demanding human rights, but also actively working to implement and defend them. In over 60 countries, the Foundation supports NGOs and human rights activists in their human rights projects. These include, for example, art and film festivals to encourage debate on freedom and prejudice, campaigns on safe whistleblowing, workshops on the international protection of human rights, and empowerment programs for women and young girls. Our human rights work aims to educate individuals and groups about their rights, and train the defenders of such rights. More human rights defenders need to be empowered to stand up for their rights, freedom, and justice, even in often difficult circumstances.
"Freedom is not free [...]. If we remain silent, we slowly vanish, without dignity. If we raise our voice, at least we know that we have stood against the oppression." That is how Masih Alinejad puts it. The Iranian-American journalist is dedicated to the fight for freedom and a better future. We consider it our duty to support her and other human rights defenders in the best possible manner.
I wish you new insights and motivation for the human rights work as you read this report.
Deputy Chair of the Board of Directors of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom and former German Minister of Justice