In introducing the session on the Network’s individual cases, Corillon reiterated that the “primary focus at this stage of the Network’s development, as we are feeling our way forward and work to engage national academies around the world in our efforts, has been on cases of colleagues. We have started with a narrow focus, that of specific cases, but who knows where we could go? With the distinguished and knowledgeable people around this table, and the support of their academies, we could go a very long way. We have tried to build slowly and carefully, so as to have a solid base from which to develop a truly effective Network.”
In response to a question about how cases brought to the Network are selected for action, Corillon explained that the CHR has more than 300 cases, but if the Network were to try to work on that many cases, it would risk overwhelming the member academies. She said that in selecting cases for referral to the Network, she tries to choose the most urgent cases and those that have been the most thoroughly researched. Cases referred to the secretariat by academies in the Network are carefully investigated. If a case is found to fit the Network’s criteria for adoption, it is referred by the Executive Committee to the Network members for action.
“Some such cases involve the abduction or arrest of a colleague, and we do not know where he or she is being detained. There may be a serious danger of torture. Other cases are chosen because the colleague is about to be brought to trial, or is ill and needs medical treatment. I try to pick the most urgent cases but to also maintain a reasonable geographic balance because there are cases all over the world, and we do not want to single out only a few countries or a particular region on which to focus.”
She said that missions are also very important and that results are often tangible—for example, when prisoners are released. She mentioned the CHR’s successful missions to Chile and Somalia in the 1980s. “There are lots of cases on which groups all over the world are working. We intervene privately and often have no idea what effort or efforts really influenced the resolution of a case, but we do what we can and other groups do the same. Together we all hope that our efforts will improve the situation. We also try to make sure that we do not do harm.”
As an example, Corillon mentioned the ongoing case in Pakistan of a medical doctor and professor of health, Younis Shaikh, who is charged with blasphemy [see case summary in Appendix C]. She explained that no action had yet been taken by the Network as a whole on this case out of fear that a large number of interventions could make the prisoner’s situation worse. She said that often one must wait until contact with the prisoner’s family or lawyer is established and they can be asked what efforts will be helpful and what strategies will most