The Committee on Human Rights (CHR), created in 1976, is a standing membership committee of the United States National Academy of Sciences (NAS), National Academy of Engineering (NAE), and National Academy of Medicine (NAM), institutions composed of many of the world’s most distinguished scientists, engineers, physicians, and researchers. The CHR serves as a bridge between the human rights and scientific communities, in recognition of the importance of rights protection both for scientific inquiry and the realization of human dignity worldwide.
The CHR brings the influence of the National Academies' members to bear on situations of serious human rights concern. It advocates in support of scientists, engineers, and health professionals subjected to serious human rights abuses worldwide, with a focus on individuals targeted for their professional activities and/or for having exercised the universally protected right to freedom of expression, which provides a crucial foundation for scientific research and progress. It provides assistance to professional colleagues under threat by linking them to the wider international scientific community and to organizations that provide pro bono legal support and other services. Finally, the CHR raises awareness concerning the links between science, technology, health, and human rights, including through briefings, symposia, and use of interactive media.
The CHR, supported by a staff of human rights professionals, is composed of 14 members drawn from the membership of the three Academies and appointed by the Academies’ Presidents. The three foreign secretaries of the NAS, NAE, and NAM are among these members and serve on the committee in an ex officio capacity. More than 1,600 members of the National Academies are “CHR Correspondents” who receive regular information on the CHR’s activities and frequently make appeals in human rights cases identified by the CHR.
Since 1993, the CHR has served as Secretariat of the International Human Rights Network of Academies and Scholarly Societies, which brings together national academies and scholarly societies from all regions of the world for the purpose of addressing shared science and human rights concerns.
For responses to Frequently Asked Questions about the CHR, click here.
The infographics below highlight our advocacy in support of scientists, engineers, and health professionals worldwide. 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 members of the Academies who lend support to the work of the CHR (CHR Correspondents). Data is taken from 2017.
*“Resolved” cases are cases on which the Committee is no longer working as the result of significant positive developments (e.g. release, acquittal). Resolved cases may be reopened as a result of subsequent negative developments.
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