Human Rights Advocacy
The internal ferment and push for democracy and respect for human rights in the former Soviet Union and Communist Eastern Europe was slowly gathering momentum. Prominent dissidents, such as Dr Sakharov and his wife Elena Bonner were still under imposed exile in Siberia. The Gulag Archipelago still stretched across the Soviet Union holding tens of thousands of victims. In China, there was also political ferment and political dissidents such as Wei Jing Sheng, Harry Wu and many thousands of others were imprisoned in hard labor camps, called the Laogai.
During this early stage the Society began an association with the International Society for Human Rights based in Frankfurt, Germany. The International Society is a loose federation of similarly minded small voluntary human rights groups that had sprung up in some 20 countries. In 1985 AHRS became the official Australian Section of ISHR.
The International Secretariat coordinated a number of campaigns during the eighties pressing for the release of political dissidents, especially in Easter Europe and the Soviet Union in which our Section participated. With the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe in the late 1980s, the International Society established a number of civil education projects to promote the development of good governance in the newly independent nations, including Moscow, St Petersburgh and in the Ukraine. ISHR-A contributed to this work.
ISHR-A has campaigned for the freedom of individual political prisoners, and for freedom of association and respect for human rights in Burma, China and Vietnam over the past 25 years.
We have also lobbied successive Australian Governments over our concerns in respect of Australiaâ€™s treatment of asylum seekers.
We participated in the world-wide campaign to ban landmines.
We have contributed to the work of ISHR-Senegal in their election watch and civil education projects.
For the Australian Section, our primary focus in the 1980s was the refugee situation in South East Asia where Cambodian, Lao and Vietnamese refugees had fled in their millions from communist oppression in their homelands. In South Asia, millions of Afghans had fled into their neighbouring countries to escape continuing war, first from the war with Soviet invaders and from continual civil war.We took an active interest in the refugee situation that developed in the Eritrea and Ethiopian war. Through established contacts in ngos working with these desperate situations, we were able to make contributions towards refugee relief.
The 1990s saw a continuation of refugees relief towards Afghans in Pakistan, and Burmese in Thailand. The rocky road towards democracy has seen several refugee situations in East Timor.
We also contributed to the International Secretariat refugee Relief efforts in Bosnia and Rwanda.
Grass Roots Development
In this category we have contributed to a number of small scale projects primarily in South and South East Asia. In recent years we have acted as an auspicing body for our Associates and programs or projects in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, East Timor, Flores, and Vietnam have been supported through ISHRA