COMMITTEE ON HUMAN RIGHTS
The Committee on Human Rights was created in 1976 in response to concern by members of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) about widespread abuses of human rights, particularly those of their scientific colleagues. In 1994, the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and the Institute of Medicine (IOM) joined the NAS as full sponsors of the committee. The committee is composed of members drawn from the membership of the three institutions. The committee has the active support of more than 1,700 members of the NAS, NAE, and IOM, who assist it as “correspondents” in its human rights work by writing appeals in behalf of and letters of encouragement to imprisoned colleagues. The committee is financially supported by the NAS, NAE, and IOM, several private foundations, and contributions from private donors.
The work of the committee is grounded in principles set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The committee does not support or oppose any government or political system; it does hold governments responsible for conforming to international standards for the protection of human rights and accountable when they do not.
The committee uses the influence and prestige of the institutions it represents in behalf of scientists, engineers, and health professionals anywhere in the world who are unjustly detained or imprisoned for exercising their basic human rights as promulgated by the UDHR. Each case is carefully investigated, using a variety of sources, before being taken up by the committee. Such individuals cannot have been known to use or advocate violence. The committee also intervenes in behalf of non-violent colleagues who are the recipients of death threats, and it works to promote just prosecution in cases of individuals who have been killed for political reasons.
Activities of the committee include private inquiries, appeals to governments, moral support to prisoners and their families, and consciousness-raising efforts such as workshops and symposia. Periodically, it undertakes a mission of inquiry to a country. It issues public statements regarding a case or reports on the human rights situation in a country only when significant private efforts have proved unsuccessful and after the NAS Council and the presidents of the NAE and IOM have approved such action by the committee. The committee also is a catalyst for human rights issues of concern to the members of the academy complex.
The committee serves as the secretariat for the International Human Rights Network of Academies and Scholarly Societies. The Network, created in 1993, works to address grave
issues of science and human rights, particularly the unjust detention or imprisonment of colleagues, throughout the world. Currently, science academies and scholarly societies in some 50 countries are affiliated with the Network; each is represented by internationally prominent members who are also human rights advocates. The members of the Network 's Executive Committee are: François Jacob, France; Max Perutz, United Kingdom; John Polanyi, Canada; Pieter van Dijk, the Netherlands; Edoardo Vesentini, Italy; and Torsten Wiesel, the United States of America.
The CHR's members for 2001 and its current staff are listed below:
TORSTEN WIESEL , Chair
Rockefeller University, New York, New York
MARY ELLEN AVERY
Department of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
MINA J. BISSELL
Ernest Orlando Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, California
Office of the Chancellor, Polytechnic University, Brooklyn, New York
Rice University, Houston, Texas
Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts
SARA B. HRDY
Department of Anthropology, University of California, Davis
Department of Meteorology, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland
AT&T Bell Laboratories (retired), Springfield, New Jersey
The Marmon Group, Inc., Chicago, Illinois
KATEPALLI R. SREENIVASAN
Mason Laboratory, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut
Department of Neurobiology, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California
Department of Physics, University of California, Berkeley, California
SALIH J. WAKIL
Department of Biochemistry, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas
MARY JANE WEST -EBERHARD
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, University of Costa Rica, Ciudad Universitaria, Costa Rica
CAROL CORILLON , Director
PATRICIA EVERS , Program Officer
JAMES BANIHASHEMI , Program Associate