The Committee on Human Rights was created in 1976 and is a standing membership committee of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), National Academy of Engineering (NAE), and National Academy of Medicine (NAM). The Committee uses the influence and stature of the institutions it represents, and their members in support of scientists, engineers, and health professionals anywhere in the world who have been subjected to severe repression for peacefully exercising their internationally recognized human rights.
The Committee is composed of 12 members drawn from the membership of the three Academies, with foreign secretaries of the NAS, NAE, and NAM serving as ex officio members. It has the active support of more than 1,500 members of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, who assist it as "correspondents" in its human rights work by writing appeals for and letters of encouragement to their unjustly treated colleagues. The Committee is financially supported by the Academies and contributions from private donors.
Each case that is undertaken is carefully investigated, using a variety of sources, before being taken up by the Committee. The CHR advocates in support of scientific colleagues who, to the best of its knowledge, have not used or advocated violence. The work of the Committee is grounded in principles set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). In the United States, the Committee also addresses selected science related civil rights cases and issues, work underpinned by the U.S. Constitution. 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.
Activities of the Committee include private inquiries and appeals to governments, moral support to "adopted" prisoners and their families, and awareness raising efforts such as workshops and symposia. Periodically, it undertakes field missions. It issues public statements and reports only when significant private efforts have proved unsuccessful and after consideration of the NAS Council and the presidents of the NAE and NAM approve such action. The Committee is also a catalyst for science-related human rights issues of concern to members of the academy complex.
Since its creation in 1992, the Committee has served as Secretariat of the International Human Rights Network of Academies and Scholarly Societies, which brings together approximately 80 national academies and scholarly societies to address shared science and human rights concerns.
The infographics below highlight our advocacy in support of scientists, engineers and health professionals worldwide who have been targeted for their human rights or professional work. Each infographic provides a regional breakdown of our current* and resolved cases and types of abuse suffered by colleagues. Each also provides a snapshot of “member correspondents” of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine who lend support to the work of the CHR. *Data is taken from 2015.
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