The Committee on Human Rights was created in 1976 and is a standing 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 on behalf of scientists, engineers, and health professionals anywhere in the world who have been subjected to severe repression for peacefully exercising their basic human rights.
The Committee is composed of 13 members drawn from the membership of the three Academies. 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 on behalf of and letters of encouragement to scientists, engineers, and health professionals. The Committee is financially supported by the Academies and contributions from private donors.
Each case 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 our 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, appeals to governments, moral support to 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 the NAS Council and the presidents of the NAE and NAM have approved such action by the Committee. The Committee is also a catalyst for science-related human rights issues of concern to the members of the academy complex.
The Committee also serves as Secretariat of the International Human Rights Network of Academies and Scholarly Societies, which brings together approximately 80 national academies and scholarly societies in support of our shared mission.
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