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Committee on Human Rights
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001
Phone: (202) 334-3043
Fax: (202) 334-2225

The Committee on Human Rights serves as the Secretariat for the International Human Rights Network of Academies and Scholarly Societies (H.R. Network).

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Timeline of the Committee on Human Rights

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In the spotlight   

Imprisoned Sudanese engineer Dr. Mudawi Ibrahim Adam released following presidential pardon
August 31, 2017

Dr. Mudawi croptDr. Mudawi Ibrahim Adam is an engineer, a prominent human rights advocate, and founder of the Sudan Social Development Organization (SUDO), a nongovernmental organization that promotes human rights and development initiatives relating to water, sanitation, and health in Sudan. He has been recognized internationally for his human rights promotion and humanitarian efforts, but repeatedly jailed for this work in Sudan. After nearly nine months in detention on spurious national security-related charges, he was among several prisoners granted a pardon by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on August 29, 2017.

The Sudanese National Intelligence and Security Services took Dr. Mudawi into custody on December 7, 2016, at the University of Khartoum, where he works as a professor of engineering. His arrest, along with that of dozens of opposition figures and activists, followed calls by opposition groups for a general strike in response to rising costs of living and government spending cuts. Dr. Mudawi was held incommunicado for over a month before he was allowed to meet with members of his family. In protest against his prolonged detention, Dr. Mudawi underwent two hunger strikes. Reportedly, his hands and feet were shackled, and he was placed in a “punishment cell” with poor ventilation and very hot temperatures, which exacerbated his existing health issues, in an attempt to force him to end his hunger strike. Dr. Mudawi was detained for over five months before multiple national security-related charges were brought against him, some of which could have resulted in the death penalty. No credible evidence was presented to support the charges.

The CHR and the International Human Rights Network of Academies and Scholarly Societies have actively worked on Dr. Mudawi’s case since shortly after his detention and advocated for his release with high-level Sudanese officials, international bodies, and other government actors. We are pleased that he has been released and reunited with his family.


 New Tactics of Abuse: Digital surveillance and human rights

On May 1, 2017, during the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Annual Meeting, the Committee on Human Rights (CHR) held a breakfast briefing, led by CHR Chair Martin Chalfie, to highlight issues surrounding digital security and human rights.
Guest speaker John Scott-Railton of The Citizen Lab (Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto) spoke to NAS members about the use of digital surveillance and technologies to target human rights activists and other members of civil society worldwide. Utilizing peer-reviewed and mixed-methods research, The Citizen Lab tracks perpetrators – often governments – who take advantage of weak laws and new available technologies to abuse the Internet for the purpose of threatening peaceful dissidents.  As an example of how The Citizen Lab engages with the victims of these operations, Mr. Scott-Railton described the high-profile case of Emirati engineer and activist Ahmed Mansoor, who, with the assistance of The Citizen Lab, was able to thwart a cyber-attack and prompt a widely used mobile manufacturer to fix previously unknown, but dangerous, security flaws in its products.

New Tactics of Abuse: Digital surveillance and human rights from The National Academies on Vimeo.


Collaborating on Human Rights Investigations: Fire Research and Forensic Science

At the spring 2017 meeting of the Committee on Human Rights, Professor José Torero—the John L. Bryan Chair in Fire Protection Engineering and Director of the Center for Disaster Resilience at the University of Maryland—spoke to members about his efforts to help protect human rights through the investigation of several high-profile fires.   

One notable example is his investigation of a 2010 fire in Chile’s San Miguel prison that led to the death of dozens of inmates. During a fight between rival gangs in the prison, a mattress was intentionally set ablaze by inmates. In the three hours that it took for local fire fighters to bring the fire under control, 81 inmates trapped behind closed gates were killed. The incident prompted the public defender’s office to request an investigation to help determine whether the prison guards, who had failed to open the padlocks of the burning cells, were liable for their deaths. Dr. Torero was called to simulate the conditions of the fire, in order to understand its behavior, and to create an estimation of the time-line of events. His team concluded that the intense blaze grew quickly out of control, and that the guards could not have intervened in time to save those who perished. Dr. Torero’s findings shifted blame away from the prison guards and toward the need for improvement in prison conditions, as overcrowding within the prison led to the high number of causalities. Consequently, Chilean President Sebastian Pinera called for an end to overcrowding in the prison system and for much needed reforms.
Dr. Torero also shared his experience investigating a massive fire set at an alleged crime scene in Guerrero State, Mexico. At the invitation of an expert group convened by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), he conducted experiments that challenged the government's narrative surrounding the fate of 43 students from a rural teachers’ college who, after being fired upon by local police, were taken into custody and later went missing.  Dr. Torero’s findings brought greater public attention to the forensic science of fire investigation. [For more information about Dr. Torero’s efforts in this case, read the related articles in Science Magazine here and here. To view the results of the investigative report on the matter performed by the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (IGIE), appointed by the IACHR, please click here.]
Dr. Torero emphasized the need for human rights organizations and institutions to better understand the science behind human rights investigations and the added value scientists can provide through their technical analyses.
June 20, 2017

Today we mark World Refugee Day, and the figures are staggering. The number of forcibly displaced persons now exceeds 65 million, including 22.5 million refugees. June 20th is a day to reflect on the loss experienced by these individuals, but also an opportunity to honor their resilience and strength. Many are innovators, actively addressing the challenges that they and others encounter on a daily basis. Refugees are creating sustainable energy sources in camps, developing communications systems, using 3D printers to create prosthetics, and—in many other ways—working to improve the lives of people who have been uprooted from their homes and communities.

On December 7-8, 2017, the Committee on Human Rights (CHR) of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine will convene a symposium on the role that scientists, engineers, and health professionals can play in supporting these and other efforts to respond to displacement-related challenges and protect the rights of forcibly displaced persons worldwide.

 Revised Symposium Flyer


The International H.R. Network holds its twelfth biennial meeting in Panama City, Panama

H.R. Network Panama Participants
Participants of the 2016 H.R. Network meeting in Panama City, Panama. 

The twelfth biennial meeting of the International Human Rights Network of Academies and Scholarly Societies (H.R. Network), for which CHR serves as Secretariat, was held under the auspices of the National Secretariat for Science, Technology and Innovation of Panama (SENACYT) and the Panamanian Association for the Advancement of Science (APANAC) from October 5-8, 2016 in Panama City, Panama.  The H.R. Network, created in 1993, works to address global concerns related to science and human rights and to promote the free exchange of ideas and opinions among scientists and scholars in all countries.

Representatives of 25 national scientific academies and scholarly societies from around the world were in attendance. The meeting included a one day symposium, Science and Human Rights: Navigating the Currents, with speakers from several Network member academies and academic institutions in Latin America and the Middle East. During the meeting, higher education students in science, engineering, health, law, journalism and other fields engaged with speakers at a special student session on the intersection between science and human rights.

To view the programs for the symposium and student session, as well as photos of meeting participants, please click here.    


CHR at a Glance

The Committee on Human Rights (CHR) has produced a new infographic that provides a snapshot of our current and resolved cases concerning scientists, health professionals, and engineers around the world subjected to severe human rights abuses - whether as a result of their professional work or for having peacefully exercised their right to freedom of expression. The infographic also demonstrates the active support we enjoy from members of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and highlights our engagement with UNESCO's human rights complaint body. 

* Data is taken from July 2016           

CHR Infographic side 1CHR Infographic side 2 
You must scroll through the infographic to see both. 


Read More In the Spotlight




  Resolved Cases See all...  
 SudanGraduate student in engineering granted presidential pardon in Sudan
 Ali al-EkriBahraini Pediatrician Ali Esa Mansoor Al-‘Ekri Released from Prison
 al-SamahijiBahraini Ophthalmologist Released after Serving One-Year Sentence
 Homa HoodfarIranian-Canadian Anthropologist Released from Prison
 Kokabee SmallIranian Physicist Omid Kokabee Granted Parole

 Kamran Mortezaie 2

Bahá'í Electrical Engineer Released from Prison in Iran
 Faran 3Baha’i Psychologist Released after Serving Four-Year Sentence
 Khaing Tiny Medical Doctor Released from Prison in Myanmar
 Tunisia 2Appeals Court Dismisses Tunisian Mathematician’s Case and Orders His Release
 vitishko small imageRussian Geologist Yevgeny Vitishko Conditionally Released from Prison
 Kamran Rahimian Iranian Baha’i Psychologist Released from Prison

 Mahmoud Badavam

Two Iranian Baha’i Colleagues Released from Prison

No Photo Available

Bahraini Health Professional Released after Serving Three-Year Sentence 

Xue FengChinese-Born U.S. Geologist Xue Feng Released 10 Months Early

Tun Aung photo: Radio Free Asia

Myanmarese Medical Doctor Tun Aung Conditionally Released
Matooq 2Bahraini Nurse Released from Prison
Tarek LoubaniCanadian Professors Cleared of Any Wrongdoing after 50 Days in Egyptian Prison
 Faruk YarmanTurkish Engineer Faruk Yarman Acquitted on Appeal and Released from Prison
 Cyril Karabus
 Bahrain Salmaniya Hospital
 Valentin DanilovRussian Physicist Valentin Danilov Released on Parole
 Bahraini Medics CroppedSentences of Nine Health Professionas Overturned in Bahrain
 Mansogo Alo2
©2010 EG Justice
Equatorial Guinean Medical Doctor Wenceslao Mansogo Alo Granted Presidential Pardon