Reports: Regional Breakout Groups
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
[The substantive aspects of the meeting got under way with rapporteurs from the five breakout groups summarizing the very lively and positive discussions that took place. This session was chaired by Torsten Wiesel.]
Felix I. D. Konotey-Ahulu reported first.
Of the five countries represented by the team from Africa (Uganda, Nigeria, Kenya, Morocco, and Ghana), only Kenya has not had a coup d’etat since independence. So our understanding of human rights is a little variable.
In Ghana, we had about five coups d’etat in our short span of life. The effect they have had on the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences is extraordinary. One fellow of the Academy might sit at the right hand of another fellow, who belongs to the junta. Then he might have a fellow who is in the oppressive party on his left. So, it is clearly difficult to talk about human rights. This booklet containing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, published by the United Nations, is excellent, and we could use it as a blueprint. We could say that what this book says is what goes, irrespective of whether the fellow on your left or on your right belongs to the junta or not. But we also agreed that the interpretation of the function of the International Human Rights Network, as far as Africa is concerned, is too narrow, because human rights abuses on our continent are not identical to those elsewhere. We feel that to limit abuses of human rights to those that involve scholars and academics is too narrow, and the human rights abuses addressed by the Network should be expanded.
Gideon Barak A. Okelo continued the report.
The group discussions are very useful. They enrich the agenda of the Network, giving us the opportunity to review conceptualized human rights abuses, not just narrowly in terms of one or two regions of the world, but globally. There have been as many human rights abuses in Africa, perhaps more than anywhere else in the world. The only difference is that there has been very little effort to articulate these abuses. Nevertheless, the scene in Africa is changing, and many of us are taking on some of these challenges.
I will begin by addressing what our committee at the African Academy of Sciences is doing. Since we last met, two years ago, the African Academy of Sciences, of which I am the Secretary General, has set up a network of science academies in Africa. In all the countries and independent states of Africa, there are only about 10 national academies, so the African Academy of Sciences has championed the formation of a network of science academies in Africa. This was done at the end of 2001.
The second thing we have done is to form a committee on human rights, which is headed by a well-known political scientist who is now a minister in the current government in Kenya. He was unable to come to this meeting, so the African Academy ended up sending me as its representative, a medical person.
The third thing we have done is to set up the Special Commission on Africa within the African Academy of Sciences. The Special Commission deals with each and every issue in Africa, including human rights abuses. A lot of efforts have been made in this direction. For example, some three years ago, the African Academy of Sciences organized a meeting to be attended by all the warring parties in the Southern Sudan, including the Sudanese government. We were able to speak freely about various abuses. This was very useful because the information was then published and made available to all concerned people globally.
The next issue is to raise three or four of the most prominent problems related to science and human rights in our country. Of the human rights abuses that we see in Africa that I would like this Network to address, I would include female genital mutilation (FGM) which, as you know, the World Health Organization has taken up. We, as scientists in Africa, especially the medical scientists, have always argued against FGM, and it has been a human rights abuse for a very long time. I’m glad the World Health Organization is taking this up.
The second problem in Africa is corruption. Perhaps to a European, corruption does not appear to be an abuse of a human right, but it depends on the details and the facts. The type of corruption that you have in Africa also involves Europe, because a lot of the money that is stolen is actually taken to a few European countries. Some Europeans in those countries assist the corrupt in Africa and try to simply keep the loot. How does a network like this get concerned about this issue? There is no way that the Network can work in isolation, because it is a human rights organization addressing human issues. Corruption affects human health, for example. If I see a patient or a child who is anemic and very malnourished, it is because the parents are poor, there is no job for them, and the economy is bad because of corruption. Ultimately it has health dimensions.
It took us a decade to tell our politicians that HIV is not just a health problem, but also a human rights issue. Some of the patients have a right to be given drugs; drugs should therefore be available, and the various ministries should be given enough money to provide them.
Corruption in Africa is an issue that both Europeans and Americans should be concerned about. It will not do to keep quiet about this and say that it is a political issue that has to be sorted out. No, there are many dimensions to it. If everybody is talking about it, that is when a solution may be reached.
The third problem of human rights abuse in Africa is civil strife. Some of this is flagrant human rights abuse—denying people their civil rights. Take for example the case of the Ivory Coast. The current government is formed by people from the south, and therefore nothing is allowed to go to the north. There is constant civil strife, resulting in a very large number of
refugees. The biggest victims of this abuse, as all of you know, are the less advantaged, who nearly always include women and children.
These problems—female genital mutilation, corruption, and civil strife—are the ones I would like a network like this to be aware of and to develop an agenda for. Approaches need to be made to develop arguments around them that emphasize correction of these human rights abuses.
The third issue to address is, Does the Academy have a human rights committee? Yes, we do, as I’ve mentioned. We also encourage each of the 10 science academies in Africa to try and have a human rights committee that will maintain surveillance regionally.
What steps have we taken to encourage other academies? One step is the formation of the network, and another is to encourage groups of scientists in different regions of Africa to form science academies very much independent of politicians. This is important because the few national academies that exist are entirely dependent on government with little discretionary money in the budget. Sometimes, even when an academy feels strongly that human rights are being violated or ignored, the members are afraid to raise their voices, because if they do, next year there will be no money. We encourage them to form independent science academies.
We have recently launched the first newsletter by the network of science academies in Africa. This is going to be a forum in which to raise concerns about human rights abuses in Africa.
We want to develop several regional academies. An academy has just been formed in Zimbabwe, and some six years ago an academy was formed in Senegal. Some other African countries are in the process of establishing academies as well. This will eventually enable the academies in Africa to speak collectively on all issues, including human rights issues.
My final point is to suggest what this Network can do to help protect the integrity of the academies and promote freedom of responsible research. This Network will be very useful to offer ideas—not money—to the national academies on how they can raise funds without necessarily getting them from government. This is very important with regard to being able to speak freely and express opinions. The African Academy of Sciences has this advantage because it is not getting money from any government on a regular basis, although an endowment was given to us by Nigeria. We are approaching other governments, on the basis of an endowment; if they don’t like our request, they will not give us the money. If they do give us money, we are still able to speak freely without being afraid.
Ideas on how to fund this, to make the academies independent financially, as has been suggested to some of my colleagues at the National Academies, would be very helpful. One of the ways would be to ask a government for a one-time donation. It might agree to donate $5
million or $1 million. That way, one doesn’t have to go back to them again. One can say thank you, disappear, and then try to invest that money so that the academy remains independent.
In Africa, dealing with human rights abuses is a very difficult issue because of the political atmosphere. Our scientists have not spoken out, although it is necessary for them to do so. Sometimes the boundaries are clear-cut on issues, but sometimes the boundaries are very gray. It would be morally wrong for scientists to stand aside, particularly when it is a gray area, because very few problems are well defined.
Eva Kushner reported for the group.
I’m afraid this will be disappointing and not nearly as extensive as the report we have just heard. I was supposed to be the coordinator and not the rapporteur. I took a few notes, and I’m sure my colleagues will supplement what I’ll have to say.
We represent five countries: Colombia, Costa Rica, United States, Canada, and Chile. The first thing we discussed was mutual information about our academies. No one claimed absolutely perfect performance in cooperating with the Network. In fact, on the contrary, we reported difficulties in persuading colleagues, persuading ourselves, to respond each time there is a call to intervene in a case.
Besides human frailty, a more fundamental reason is that the academies represent different models. In all cases, there was doubt or at least hesitancy as to whether such activity is automatically part of the definition of an academy. Very often, institutions and individuals retreat into that definition, saying that is not a primary function for an academy. I certainly encountered that attitude in Canada. Nevertheless, there was great admiration and great approval for the activity of the Network and certainly evidence of activity in the various academies.
Some of the weaknesses related to the infrequency of meetings and that, in turn, poses the question of whether action should be undertaken by the institution itself or by individuals. Sometimes the results are better if individuals intervene rather than to try and obtain the official approval of the academy. The U.S. academy is an exception, because one of its functions is to advise government on policy. It therefore has a very powerful committee with 1,700 members supporting it as “correspondents.” In Canada, The Royal Society has a committee that has about six members and usually acts through its chairman.
A substantial part of our discussion was how to improve this performance. The underlying question is whether it is our primary function to intervene in individual cases. If all human rights committees of all academies did this 100%, that would be marvelous performance—and in many cases, it is. There was also a lot of discussion about other domains in which a network could be helpful. We defined the universality of science as being perhaps the ultimate territory. Not only should we defend colleagues who are in difficulties or in prison or
otherwise persecuted, but also to what extent should we be defending freedom of research and scholarship?
My committee in Canada, the Committee on Freedom of Scholarship and Science, recognizes the importance of all aspects of potential defense of the universality of science, as well as the freedom of scientists individually and collectively to engage in research fruitfully. Our conclusion was that, although ideally it should be a goal, and it can be the calling of the Network, it is perhaps too much to undertake, at least for several of the countries represented in this group. I’m not asserting anything, but I’m submitting this as a question to the Network.
Our two main conclusions are yes to the strengthening of the present activity of the Network and certainly research into all aspects of the defense of freedom of research universally. This implies quite a bit of opposition to government interference and corporate interference, but hesitancy as to wider engagement.
Arjuna Aluwihare introduced the report.
Asia has nearly half the world’s population. Although the two biggest countries are not directly represented here, there are points of view from the region that are interesting. What goes on vis-à-vis science and human rights now in Asia may have much further and longer impacts into the future than could otherwise have been imagined.
M. Shamsher Ali then gave the report.
First, we discussed Latsami Khamphoui from Laos (a former political prisoner). He made a request that his participation here should not be recorded, so we listened to him very carefully. He is an economist.
We examined the cases of scientists from Pakistan, Iraq, Kuwait, and Cuba and appreciated the way these cases were handled. We expressed all-out support of the cases recorded in the documents included in the agenda book.
Our first point of consensus is that the Network could suggest that each academy should form a human rights committee. I think this is the call of the hour.
Such a committee could procure information about the unjust treatment of scientists who have merely expressed their opinions and could act in close collaboration with the Network to
give more support globally to the cause of scientists. The work that is being done has been quite appreciated, but if each academy has a little cell or committee, this work could be reinforced.
The next point discussed is that the scientists in many countries have had to impose a kind of self-censorship on their own work and their own voices. There are countries in which international banks, like the World Bank, bring in large amounts of money for scientific projects. Some patriotic scientists may think that these projects of far-reaching consequence are not really going to be beneficial, and history may prove them right. However, if they speak freely, this difference of opinion is often taken to be of an anti-state sentiment, especially for projects for which the funds flow from outside. Governments are afraid that these kinds of differences of opinion may cause the funds to be withdrawn. As a result, the voices of those in opposition are hushed and not listened to. This is very unfortunate.
The Network should encourage them to speak freely, not just by opposing the projects but analyzing them from the right perspective, and then to work, irrespective of whether their voices are heard or not.
What is the power of science? What is the power of a scientist? It is the power to think. The capability to think is the greatest asset that we have. Since the Network has been involved in this very big task, we are defending the rights of scientists, the free voices of scientists, but the basic right is the ability to speak, to say the right thing at the right time. If that right is usurped, then it is the scientist’s death, in a way. He can live physically, but his mental powers are gone.
The Network should encourage scientists to say whatever they should say, irrespective of the development projects of their own countries.
The Network should also work with other human rights organizations to plead the case of scientists. In this connection, our colleague from Taiwan mentioned that he was asked to find out how many scientists were killed in the Tiananmen Square incident. He said, it was not just scientists, a vast number of people died. In such a case, the movement should be not only for scientists, but also for every person who died. The 17th century English poet John Donne said “Each man's death diminishes me, for I am involved in mankind. Therefore, send not to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.” We are a subset of the total set. So, while we are doing our subset well, we should also be taking care of the bigger set of which we are a subset—the other human rights activists.
There was also some discussion on why scientists are tortured just because they did, under one government, some scientific work or another. In Banff, in Canada, we were having a PUGWASH meeting to which we invited students. One student who came said, I don’t understand scientists—are you mad? You are developing weapons, and then you are asking why this weapon should not be utilized? Why are you developing it in the first place? This question is very, very important, but we must realize and appreciate the conditions and mind sets in which scientists work globally. They are under terrible pressures. They are involved in some kind of
work that is not beneficial to mankind. I can quote the case of Enrico Fermi; he was a physicist, and some of his letters have been declassified. One wouldn’t think that such a man could say, if we want to kill people by the thousands, what kind of radioactive arrangements should be involved. It is necessary to take into account the mind set of scientists at that time [World War II]. In order for scientists not to be roped into such conditions, they do not get involved in work and then repent later. I saw Oppenheimer in later years; he could never smile after Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Never in his life could he smile again.
We should try to arrange meetings between important leaders in science and the Network, which has been headed by no less a person than Torsten Wiesel. We must also appreciate that they work under pressure, especially in the case of Iraq and the weapons of mass destruction. Many people were taken into captivity on mere suspicions. When this came up, we said that we must understand the conditions of scientists. It is not in their particular land—the situation is global, and the scientists are often forced into doing certain work.
We considered the visibility of the Network and how to increase its clout. The quality of the people involved in it is essential. People power is the greatest of all powers. Nevertheless, Amnesty International has consulting status with the United Nations.
We are thinking that if the Network can secure a position with the United Nations, along with Amnesty, its voice can be heard at the highest level, both internationally and by the national governments, increasing its visibility.
In order for these voices to be heard, something more should be done. For example, on matters of public interest, such as cloning, the Inter-Academy Panel has been issuing statements of public concern. We have been issuing statements saying that cloning should not be banned, because a lot of good things can come of it, and it is necessary for agriculture. It is generally accepted, however, that human cloning is not recommended. If the Network makes public statements on matters of importance, then its credibility, apart from its visibility, should increase, as governments see that here is a body to which they can turn for sound advice for the sake of mankind. Its visibility and credibility should increase because of the good advice and the quality of the people involved.
The wisdom and power of scientists should be used. How to do this, how to plead with governments, and how to improve the national academies are all questions that need serious thought. It is only when local scientists fail to deliver the goods that the international agencies bring in their own experts. We highlight the point that the only commonwealth of mankind is knowledge, and this knowledge is not being shared properly, especially after the 9/11 events. International cooperation among nations is being hampered, because of the restrictions.
Scientists must not work in isolation. They must collaborate with their counterparts everywhere in the world. Access to information, access to laboratories, and access to data—their right to work and collaborate freely with each other—must be preserved. Security should not stand in the way. How we accomplish this is something we should give more attention to.
Question – We talked about cooperation, and you assumed that all scientists of the academy all agree. If half of the scientists working on a project agree with that project, and the other half don’t agree, do you assume that they can speak with one voice? It is the same with cloning— half of scientists say human cloning can be done.
Ali – The intellectual debate is always very healthy, and we should not discourage it. The question is, at the end of the day, we must come to a conclusion. No government, no organization has advocated human cloning. But if you make a total ban on cloning, the research, especially in the agricultural sector, could suffer. Sensible people are bound to come to the conclusion that some part of it is good. Look at the revolution in agriculture. It is possible only because of research.
Torsten Wiesel – The Network was not created to worry about stem cells or scientific issues of this nature. That is more the purview of the Inter-Academy Panel, which was created after this Network because of the need to address this kind of question.
Comment – The rights of scientists and the rights of science are inseparably connected. There has to be some interactions between these so that we can all act in tandem.
Hermann Hunger presented the report.
We discussed how the different Academies interact with the Network and what can be done to improve it. I want to pick out a few things that came up again and again. One was human rights in the face of what is called the fight against terrorism.
It is not so easy to distinguish between a fight against terrorism and a fight for liberty. But human rights are now frequently violated in the guise of governments needing or wanting to fight terrorism or what they take to be terrorism. This was seen as a problem that we in the Network will have to deal with.
It was suggested that this conference could propose a resolution on this topic. Also mentioned in our group was the need for a comprehensive report on this meeting. There was some discussion whether the Network and the Academies should focus more on the cases of individual scientists or on principles and under what conditions should attention be paid to cases.
There was also discussion of a particularly European experience, which is the change in government that came about from the breakup of the Soviet empire. People from states that are now free of it can offer help in dealing with cases because they have experience from the past. In some cases, the consequences of what happened are still felt. For instance, in the former Yugoslavia, a representative from Kosovo said that, while in principle they are free, the isolation
of scientists from the outside world is a problem because their movement is restricted. People can’t get visas to go to conferences, for example. In this context, we are missing representation from Russia and the Ukraine. It is suggested that we or the Network could try to increase the participation of European academies.
Middle East and North Africa
Driss Dahak presented the report.
Addressing the situation of human rights in the region has taken a new, positive step in the creation of a National Council in Morocco, Jordan, and Egypt and by passing some legislation for the protection of human rights. I know the road is long, but the beginning is most important.
Morocco started experiencing important changes in the early 1990s. The new era in Morocco’s history was marked, among other things, by the great commitment in 1992 to revisit the constitution to universally recognize the human rights standards and by the creation of the National Council of Human Rights.
The council achieved many positive works because of its composition as representative of various segments of society, and the decisions of the council represented the consensus of Moroccan society. Perhaps its most outstanding achievement is the creation of the Independent Arbitration Commission to look into complaints by victims of human rights abuses and to request the state to compensate them accordingly. This was a unique experience in the developing world. This experience is also unique because it did not occur as a result of political challenges, as was the case in other parts of the world. At the conclusion of its work in the year 2003, the commission gave grants totaling U.S. $100 million in compensation to victims of human rights abuses or to their families.
Also at the end of 2003, the Justice and Reconciliation Commission was created. This commission conducts public hearings about instances of past human right abuses. During its hearings, victims of human rights abuses give accounts in public and on live television of the physical and mental torture and other degrading treatment to which they were subjected. This has been for many a painful but healing experience, which was recorded in the national memory so that similar abuses can never happen again in Morocco.
Morocco has not only addressed the wounds of the past, but also has been marked by a forward approach. That is a rare move by a Muslim country. In 2003, Morocco adopted a new family law that gave women and children more rights while preserving the unity of the family. An ombudsman has been appointed also to look into complaints by citizens.
With regard to the protection of rights of scientists and other scholars in Morocco, there is currently no record of any abuse concerning them.
Morocco still has a few challenges to meet in the future, particularly in the promotion and protection of social, economic, and cultural rights. This is a vast and complex subject, so I limit myself to the issue of genetic research and its legal and moral dimensions. How will the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights be implemented in the 21st century? What might the Network do to protect the integrity of academies and their research and promote freedom of responsible research? Science and human rights is a complicated issue. It is a vast and complex subject. Will the different interpretations of its provisions clash? Or, will those provisions have to adapt to the rapid evolution of our world?
The cornerstone of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as stated in its preamble, is the recognition of the inherent dignity of human rights and families. What is the meaning of human dignity? Article 6 of the statute of the International Military Tribunal, for instance, known as the Nuremburg Statute, gives particular attention to the dignity and worth of man and provides that it should be protected from crimes. Furthermore, according to some constitutional codes and laws, the protection of human dignity means the preservation of integrity of the human race. It seems that interference with the genetic heritage of mankind may violate human dignity. As a judge and human rights promoter, I would like to ask, Is genetic engineering in any way a danger to the integrity of human rights? Are the legal and moral standards always respected, or at least taken into consideration? The answer to the questions is important, especially as recent developments in genetics such as cloning experiments, the use of sperm banks, and the conception of human beings out of the normal biological context have created big controversies. What would be, for example, the legal status of a child conceived by a woman in country X after she had received the sperm of a man living in country Y? Have the human rights of the child been protected? Are we about to witness a controlled process of genetic manipulation and selection as more and more men and women with special beauty, intelligence, skills, and other attributes are advertising the sale of their genetic features? I think the Network should react against any measures of science, especially in the field of genetic engineering, so that the ethical foundation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is preserved.
Torsten Wiesel – I attended this discussion in which there were also representatives from Egypt, Jordan, and Israel. We discussed a number of issues that relate to the situation in each country and also the crisis in the Middle East. We will have an opportunity to get into that discussion when we meet on Friday, when some representatives from Palestine and Israel and others will be present. Again, our mission is to address issues that can be looked upon as a violation of our rights as humans. The issues have been raised in different ethical, legal, and medical/scientific contexts.
What I found particularly interesting with this presentation was that here is a man high in the judicial system who, before becoming Supreme Court Chief Justice, was involved in various efforts—the Council for Human Rights among others—that have been able to change the laws in that country. In this way the policy relative to human rights has been influenced. Most people are in prison because they have broken the law. Addressing the laws in various countries is a
way of looking at it that perhaps could be interesting. Maybe we could have a discussion about this issue at some point, although it is not on the program.
Question – One question is, Should there be a code of conduct of scientists who call themselves responsible research scientists, or should there be a code of conduct for responsible research scientists? Some of the professional organizations have what they call a code of conduct or a code of ethics, and for some of them you have to take an oath that you will never do ABCD. I think the medical profession is one such profession. But in the question of responsible research, there should be a code of conduct of the people doing that research, or a particular group of professionals—in this case, scientists.
Arnold Wolfendale – I want to comment about responsibility. Perhaps I should say that I am imbued with enthusiasm, as a scientist, for a code of conduct. I tried very hard to get it through the European Academy and failed. I also mentioned it to this body in Paris, and it fell on stony ground because of the difficulty of implementation. So, I’m with you in spirit.
Wiesel – I think we are all trying to be responsible. With the Hippocratic Oath in medicine, we will discuss that again, as it will come up tomorrow and Friday. The violation of this principle has been obvious in recent cases.
Comment – In our discussions we mentioned that in Nazi Germany you had scientists who were extremely brilliant on both sides. The whole question of unethical behavior in science is very difficult. There isn’t an objective standard, so if the blue book [containing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights] could be expanded to include that, I wonder if scientists would be forced to adhere to it?
Wiesel – When it comes to articulation of these issues, it is hard. There have been books written on how the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was created and all the struggles that were involved. But to emphasize responsibility, as an example, with Fermi, who could never smile again after the atomic bomb attack on Japan, as a brain scientist, I think about that, too, because there are certain responsibilities you have, and there are dangers also. How do we protect the world, societies, and the individual from future threats that can be created by new discoveries? Science moves on, and you can’t say, You can’t do this and you can’t do that. You have to leave the door open. At the same time, you have to create a society in which the people are responsible and ethical. Once you formulate that, then bureaucrats take hold of it and before you know it, you lose your freedom of speech and all kinds of other freedoms. It is a tricky issue.
Yuan T. Lee – I am somewhat disappointed that there is nobody at this conference from Russia, Ukraine, or China. Can you explain to us why they are not here?
Wiesel – National Academies in all of these countries have been invited, and Russia came to some of the earlier conferences. The Chinese Academy of Sciences, in the early years, said that we should work with their Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. There is a certain reluctance, because it is a sensitive issue in China, so to have public involvement has been difficult. With the Ukraine, it’s unclear because of the current situation—maybe next time they will be present.
Carol Corillon – I did get a letter from the Russian Academy of Sciences. They are having their annual meeting at this time, which happened the last time as well. I think that was the reason they didn’t come. Previously, they said they would come if we paid for the travel, and we did. But no subsequent action was taken, so I was hesitant to continue to pay for the travel.
Comment – I think the issue of cloning has been complicated by a lack of understanding between religious groups and scientists. Both have a responsibility to come together. Let me tell you how this gap has widened. When the human genome project was completed in two different laboratories, both of the directors said, in almost identical language, now we are beginning to understand the language in which God created life. God was not dispensed with, although the religious groups are afraid that God, and the kind of society that has evolved through generations, will be dispensed with.
The molecular biology can be summed up in a nursery rhyme: Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall, and all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again. I was presiding over a conference in Los Angeles in 1988, and Robert Seitz, whose book I was reading when I was at the university, said this is a very unkind remark. Even the modern biologists, with all the tools and techniques at their disposal, are not in a better situation because biology is not a negative process, it is a holistic approach. Even if you are able to know exactly what the individual cells are, and if you have a factory in which you manufacture each one of these, and you put them together, it is no longer life. You have to have a cell from which you manipulate. You are not creating a cell, and even if you are able to perform some feats, it depends on the mental attitude. You can say if man can do that much, God can do even more. There is a lot of misunderstanding, and we should not stop the march of science. At the same time, we have to be very responsible as to what applications should go forward. There are a large number of very pressing areas in agriculture and botany in which the research could be of vital interest. It doesn’t interfere with the planning of God or the domain of God. It shouldn’t be interpreted in that way.
Wiesel – That is, of course, a personal viewpoint. In the United States, as you know, there is now a strong movement called intelligent design, which some of us look upon as a scam, in which it is not clear who the designer is. The designer is not necessarily God, as you would like to say. This is an area that one has to treat very gently. There are many scientists who may be reductionists and who are still religious. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a conflict, but I don’t think they have much to do with each other. That is the way I will put it.
Wolfendale – There may be some doubt about the existence of God, but there is no doubt about the existence of the devil.
I hope there will be time to debate or discuss the problem of 9/11 and the world overreaction and its influence on human rights. I view with great distaste activities in various countries to counter terrorism that often isn’t there. I hope that we will issue some sort of statement that would go to the appropriate authorities. It is not for me to say what the statement would be. It is up to everyone else.
Wiesel – It is a problem—as with cancer—you want to kill the disease, but you don’t want to kill the patient. It is a problem that we still are trying to understand. Once we can better understand the basis of behavior better, maybe we can also help fight terrorism on a scientific rather than an emotional basis.
Corillon – The Network did make a statement in 2001 titled Responding to Terrorism while Respecting Human Rights.
Marino Protti – The actions that can be taken by regional networks or regional academies, as well as a lot of the work that the Network is doing on some particular issues, may not be effective in some areas. They might, however, be effective regionally, in countries with a similar history and similar religions. There should be more encouragement through the regional academies to bring the issues of human rights into the discussion.
Wiesel – As you heard, there is a human rights council in Morocco, and apparently also in Jordan and Egypt. I didn’t realize how important these organizations are. The members are appointed by the government in Jordan and in Egypt, but in Morocco three are nominated, and the government selects one of the three. Clearly the government has a finger in the pie. On the other hand, it shows that these governments, by appointing a council of human rights, are trying to address these issues in the various regions. Each country has a different culture, different tradition and so on.
Erling Norrby – I made a rather wide inventory of issues that the Network could be involved in. I think the importance of a meeting like this is to try to focus and decide on some particular issue that would be the emphasis for the forthcoming two years. It was very commendable that at the meeting in Switzerland, for example, the emphasis was to engage in the formation of IPSO (Israeli-Palestinian Science Organization). Something like that coming out of this meeting would be useful.
Peeter Tulviste – Sometimes the authorities exert pressures on scientists, and scientists are not always free. I spent most of my life in that state, and I would like to say that it is a very complicated question. I would not agree with what you said as a general thesis. For example, millions of people in the former Soviet Union taught the students in all those universities the history of the Communist party, scientific communism, so-called political economy of socialism, and so on. Most of it was a total lie. It was just there because these disciplines existed to support a regime that violated human rights massively every day. Nobody pressed those people to do it. You can see that they were not real scientists. That is true. The other example I would give is Estonia, in Tartu, an old university city, there used to be a monument to a very wellknown medical scientist who graduated at the beginning of the 20th century from our university. His name was Nikolai Bordenko, and later on he was the main surgeon of the Soviet Army during the war.
You won’t find this monument there anymore, and the reason is that after Germany and the Soviet Union divided Poland between themselves, 21,000 Polish army officers were killed by Russians. The Germans discovered this and made it public. When this territory was in the hands of the Soviets again, Stalin made a special commission, which had to say that it was the Germans
who killed those people and not the Soviets. Stalin appointed Bordenko as head of the commission. Of course, it gave the conclusion that Stalin wanted.
If you put yourself into Bordenko’s position, you might think that these 21,000 people are dead, and if you don’t want to become dead very soon yourself, you had better say it was the Germans who killed them. But that is a very dangerous logic.
My last example is to imagine these terrible experiments made in German concentration camps. If you go on the least kind of logic, you can say that probably very soon these people will die in the camp anyway, so it is possible to make experiments that you can’t do under normal circumstances. Going one step further, you can say that all of us are mortal and will die, either soon in this camp or later in some other place.
Comment – Did our group say something that contradicts you? What are you not agreeing with? What did we say?
Aluwihare – There have been situations in which scientists may or may not have been pressured into a variety of situations.
What we discussed is that scientists have a responsibility to speak out based on evidence and, if necessary, disagree or fight against the governments that are trying to pressure them. If scientists suffer as a result of having to fight such governments, it should be known that there is a Network that will come to their defense. If that is widely enough known, that could exert a preventive effect on certain governments trying to terrorize their scientists. In fact, it may embolden scientists to speak out and to do what they think is correct on the basis of scientific evidence and not capitulate in doing genetic experiments on people and so on. The integrity and respect of the scientific community may be strengthened by knowing that there are organizations like the Network so that they can actually oppose their government safely. Governments may feel that they need to handle the scientific community with kid gloves because if they don’t, they are going to have a ton of bricks coming down on their heads.
[Torsten Wiesel ended the session by announcing that a reception for Network participants and guests was immediately to follow at the British Academy and would be hosted by the British Academy’s President, Nicolas Mann, and attended by the President of the Royal Society, Lord May, and other officers.]