National Academies Press: OpenBook

Scientists and Human Rights in Syria (1993)


Suggested Citation:"APPENDIX A: THE COMMITTEE ON HUMAN RIGHTS ." National Research Council. 1993. Scientists and Human Rights in Syria. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9173.
Page 33
Suggested Citation:"APPENDIX A: THE COMMITTEE ON HUMAN RIGHTS ." National Research Council. 1993. Scientists and Human Rights in Syria. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9173.
Page 34

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Appendix A The Committee on Human Rights The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) is a private, self-perpetuat- ing society of distinguished scholars in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and its use for the general welfare. The Academy's charter was approved by the U.S. Congress and signed by Abraham Lincoln in 1863. Election to membership in the Academy is an honor that comes to less than one-half of 1 percent of American scientists. The current membership of the NAS is more than 1,651. The Academy also elects scientists who are not U.S. citizens as foreign associates; there are currently approximately 289 foreign associates. The NAS Committee on Human Rights was created in 1976 in response to increased concern by Academy members over repression of scientists in many areas of the world. The committee is composed of 14 members, 10 from the NAS, 2 from the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), and 2 from the Institute of Medicine (IOM). The committee's inquiries and appeals are based on principles set forth in the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a declaration that has been adopted by the member states of the United Nations. It proclaims certain common standards of human rights for all peoples—standards that include the right to life, liberty, and security of person; to freedom from torture and arbitrary detention; to a fair and public hearing by an indepen- dent and impartial tribunal; and to freedom of speech, conscience, and reli- gion. Although the committee's concern is for all victims of abuses of human rights, the focus of its work is on scientists, engineers, and health 33

34 SCIENTISTS AND HUMAN RIGHTS IN SYRIA professionals who are believed to be victims of severe repression. The committee only undertakes cases of colleagues who, to the best of its knowledge, have not used or advocated violence. The committee undertakes cases of scientific colleagues anywhere in the world. In the past it has worked on cases in several dozen countries, including Argentina, Chile, China, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Guatemala, Iraq, Israel and the Occupied Territories, Kenya, Malaysia, Morocco, the Philip- pines, Somalia, South Africa, the former Soviet Union, Sudan, Syria, Viet- nam, and Zaire. Close to 500 of the more than 790 cases formally under- taken by the committee have been resolved. The work of the Committee on Human Rights is generally carried out through private inquiries from the committee and individual appeals from members of the NAS, NAE, IOM, and foreign associates who act as com- mittee correspondents. The total number of committee correspondents is more than 1,400. Over the years, the committee's private approaches have often been effective. Occasionally, however, the committee decides that a public statement should be made in behalf of an individual or that a delega- tion should be sent to a country for more information and to express more directly the committee's concerns. It has undertaken missions of inquiry to Argentina and Uruguay in 1978, to Chile in 1985, to Somalia in 1987, and to Guatemala in 1992.

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In 1976 the Committee on Human Rights (CHR) was create with members from the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The CHR works on behalf of scientists, engineers, and health professionals who are detained, imprisoned, or exiled or who have disappeared for the nonviolent exercise of their fundamental rights. Thus, the CHR has taken on the case of 287 scientists, engineers, and health professionals who have been incarcerated for political reasons.

Syria has held the record for the country with the highest number of scientists, engineers, and health professionals detained for political reasons. It is estimated that the Syrian government has freed more than 3,500 political detainees but no list of their names have been published. Due to this, the CHR cannot confirm how many of the 287 persons whose cases it has undertaken have been freed. The CHR currently knows that at least 49 of the 287 have been freed.

Shedding light upon this issue, Scientists and Human Rights in Syria presents the current state of the situation, an eyewitness account from a former prisoner, the controls present in Syria over the professional associations and prospects for liberalization and the CHR's conclusions. The report also includes a list of scientists, engineers, and health professionals who have been detained.


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