The CHR takes action in cases involving serious violations of international human rights contained in international agreements that are binding on the governments concerned and/or in customary international law. Individuals assisted by the CHR include, notably, those who have been arbitrarily detained—sometimes for many years, denied justice through grossly unfair trials, stripped of citizenship without due process, subjected to torture, and made to disappear. The CHR’s focus is on individuals subjected to serious human rights abuses either as a result of their professional activities or for having exercised their right to freedom of expression. The CHR only undertakes cases where, to the best of its knowledge, colleagues have not used or advocated violence.
Each case is carefully investigated, using a variety of independent sources (including respected human rights organizations, scientific academies, and academic networks) before being taken up by the CHR.
The CHR’s human rights advocacy, which is largely non-public, includes:
- Outreach to U.S., foreign, and international officials
- Mobilization of National Academy members through a case alert system
- Use of international and regional human rights complaint mechanisms, with pro bono assistance from law students
- Country visits and publication of our findings (click here for information about our country visits)
Our work frequently involves close contact with family members and lawyers of colleagues whose rights have been abused.
Since 1976, nearly 1000 of the Committee’s cases have been resolved. Resolved cases are those on which the Committee is no longer working as the result of significant positive developments (e.g. release, acquittal)*. The CHR is also currently working on more than 70 cases. The map below provides a breakdown of current and resolved cases by region and by profession. These figures are updated twice yearly.
*In some cases, resolved cases have been reopened as a result of new human rights abuses. Where this has occurred, the cases involved have been removed from the resolved case list and placed on the current case list.
For information on recently resolved cases, see below.
Ethiopian Political Scientist Dr. Merera Gudina Released from Prolonged Detention
January 18, 2018
Dr. Merera Gudina—a former professor of political science at Addis Ababa University, former member of Parliament, and prominent opposition leader—was released on January 17, following 13 months in detention.
On November 30, 2016, Dr. Merera was arrested in Addis Ababa upon his return from Belgium, where he had testified before the European Parliament (EP) about the human rights situation under the then state of emergency in Ethiopia. The EP had invited other Ethiopian activists—including athlete Feyisa Lilesa and Berhanu Nega, leader of the outlawed political party Patriotic Ginbot 7 —to join Dr. Merera as part of a panel on Ethiopia. In late February 2017, Dr. Merera was officially charged with several national security-related offenses relating to interviews he gave with members of the media and meetings he allegedly held with Dr. Berhanu while in Brussels.
On January 15, 2018, officials in Ethiopia dropped all charges against Dr. Merera. He is among more than 500 people, many of whom were arrested during anti-government protests, who have seen charges against them dropped that week
Iranian Baha'i Psychologist Fariba Kamalabadi Released after Lengthy Prison Term
November 8, 2017
On October 31, 2017, Iranian Baha’i psychologist and community leader Fariba Kamalabadi was released from prison after serving 9½ years of her 10-year prison sentence. She was one of the members of the Friends in Iran (Yaran-i-Iran), an ad hoc national group of seven who coordinated the Baha’i Iranian community’s religious and administrative affairs. (Mahvash Sabet, a psychologist and the only other female member of the group, was released in mid-September.
The seven Baha’i leaders were arrested in 2008, held in solitary confinement for several months, and eventually faced trial on charges of alleged “espionage for Israel” (apparently because the Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh, the founder of the Baha’i faith, is located in what is now Israel), “insulting religious sanctities,” and “propaganda against the system.” Following proceedings that failed to meet international fair trial standards—including the lack of any credible evidence to support the charges—they were sentenced in August 2010 to 20 years in prison. (In late 2015, in accordance with a new stipulation in Iran’s Penal Code, which allows for sentences to be served concurrently, their sentences were reduced to 10 years.) The Baha’is, Iran’s largest non-Muslim minority, have long been subjected to severe government persecution. Their religion is not recognized, and they are deprived of many internationally recognized human rights.
To see an archive of our resolved cases, click here.
The Committee’s ongoing casework is private, and detailed information about its current cases is only accessible to CHR Correspondents (members of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine who have elected to be kept informed about the Committee’s work and opportunities to participate) via our private website. Members can log in here to access our private website, or click on the Member login button on the left hand side of this page.