“At each biennial meeting of the Network, we must evaluate the way in which we have used these special tools and discuss whether additional tools are needed. One tool that we should discuss is that of follow-up. While it is important to send letters of concern based on an allegation of a human rights violation, it is even more important to follow up. We want the authorities concerned to realize that it is not just an automatic action we take based on information from Carol and her staff. We want to show real concern by asking, after some months, for new information, by sending new letters of concern, and by stressing to the authorities and to the embassies of those authorities in our own countries that we expect a response.
Academic Freedom and Human Rights Education
“So far, the Network has focused primarily on individual cases of human rights violations, but several of our academy committees (including that in the Netherlands) have a broader goal.
“It might be important for the Network to try to establish a code of conduct for academic freedom. We could discuss it at our next meeting, and then submit it to our academies and to our governments. Perhaps UNESCO could be involved to give it some official status. Such a code would enable us to also take action based on violations of academic freedom, no matter who the victims of that violation may be.
“To follow up on our symposium, we should discuss possible involvement in promoting human rights education and awareness, especially for people who are denied their rights because they cannot get legal support when they want to stand up for those rights. They know they are victims, but they do not know how to fight for their human rights. Of course, such programs already exist, but education and awareness are also a responsibility of scholars such as ourselves.”
What is the Extent of the Network’s Charge?
Following van Dijk’s presentation, participants had a wide-ranging discussion on how broad the Network’s human rights activities should be. The primary focus of the Network has been to assist colleagues who are threatened or imprisoned for having nonviolently exercised their right to freedom of expression and information, as promulgated by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
A number of participants advocated a broader approach, particularly given the depth and breadth of experience represented by individuals at the meeting and the academies involved in the Network. Among the specific undertakings suggested were analyses of human rights issues, more in-depth monitoring of
local situations, promotion of respect for international law, an increased number of missions of inquiry, publication of reports on cases and findings, and involvement in human rights education. One participant stressed the importance of, and expressed strong support for, addressing issues of academic freedom, academic independence, academic community, and individuality.
Wiesel said he thought the suggestion that the Network become involved in human rights education raised a different sort of issue that is also very important. Since the Network’s creation, it has participated in human rights symposia at the Royal Society of Canada and at the Turkish Academy of Sciences. Wiesel suggested that the Network consider doing more in this area, as well as perhaps sending teams from various academies in the Network to different countries to promote human rights education in areas of particular concern to the Network.
Human Rights and Human Responsibility
There was considerable discussion of the words that could best describe the Network’s human rights vision and what such words imply. For example, one participant took issue with van Dijk’s statement that human rights includes responsibilities. “To me, they are completely different, and I really would urge you to [consider] putting responsibility somewhere near the top of the list, because the difference between the two is profound. A right is something that is to my advantage. A responsibility, in a sense, is the opposite. It is something I have to do, some duty that is imposed upon me.”
Another participant mentioned a recent debate in Europe about duties and rights and said that duties were viewed negatively. He expressed strong support for the argument made by van Dijk that human rights includes human duties. Another participant reminded the members that the words “human rights” are those used in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. “I think we should continue to use [the term] human rights, and that is all. It is short, it is clear, and everybody understands what it means. I do not think we add anything by introducing new words.”
Khageswar Pradhan (Indian Academy of Agricultural Sciences) said that in his country there are both duties and responsibilities. He asked, “If there is a population whose number is increasing in the country, whose duty or responsibility is it, the child’s or the parents? That is the debate when you are talking responsibility and duties and rights. Who is responsible, whose duty is that?”
Another participant argued that the concepts of responsibility and duty are not the same. Rights have a connection with duty as well as with responsibility, and these relations are different, he said. “Rights and duty are correlation concepts, as up and down, in and out. Meanwhile, we use many concepts that