National Academies Press: OpenBook

Science and Human Rights (1988)


Suggested Citation:"APPENDIX B: MANDATES, COMMITTEE ON HUMAN RIGHTS AND COMMITTEE ON HEALTH AND HUMAN RIGHTS." National Research Council. 1988. Science and Human Rights. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9733.
Page 84
Suggested Citation:"APPENDIX B: MANDATES, COMMITTEE ON HUMAN RIGHTS AND COMMITTEE ON HEALTH AND HUMAN RIGHTS." National Research Council. 1988. Science and Human Rights. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9733.
Page 85

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Appendix B Mandates, Committee on Human Rights and Committee on Health and Human Rights COMMITTEE ON HUMAN RIGHTS The National Academy of Sciences' Committee on Human Rights (CHR) was created in 1976 in response to increased concern by academy members over repression of scientists in many areas of the world. The committee's membership includes voting representation from the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), the Institute of Medicine (IOM), and the National Academy of Sciences. Eight members are from the academy, two are from the NAE, and two members and an adviser are from the TOM. The committee's inquiries and appeals are based on principles set forth in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, a decIara- tion that has been adopted by the UN member states. It proclaims certain common standards of human rights for all peoples standards that include the right to life, liberty, and security of person; to free- dom from torture and arbitrary detention; to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal; and to freedom of speech, conscience, and religion. Though the committee's concern is for all victims of abuses of human rights, the focus of its work is on scientists, engineers, and health professionals believed to be victims of severe repression. The committee only undertakes cases of colleagues who, to the best of its knowledge, have not used or advocated violence. The committee undertakes cases of scientific colleagues anywhere in the world. In the past it has worked on cases in several dozen countries, including Chile, Czechoslovakia, Guatemala, Iraq, Kenya, 84

85 Morocco, the Philippines, South Africa, the Soviet Union, Vietnam, and Zaire. COMMITTEE ON HEALTH AND HUMAN RIGHTS The Institute of Medicine was chartered by the National Acade- my of Sciences in 1970. Its approximately 460 active members are elected on the basis of their professional achievement and serve with- out compensation in the conduct of studies, conferences, and other TOM inquiries into matters of national policy for health. The Committee on Health and Human Rights (CHHR) of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences was cre- ated in 1987 at the request of the TOM council. The committee focuses its efforts on health-related human rights issues. Its concerns include, but are not limited to, torture, incarceration of health pro- fessionals without due process, collusion of health professionals in torture, abuses of psychiatry and other medical knowledge for po- litical purposes, breach of confidentiality and falsification of medical information, and other unethical medical practices involving prison- ers or people in detention. The CHHR works to identify such practices through scholarly work and research; to increase public and professional awareness (through periodic meetings, workshops, and conferences); to use the prestige of the TOM to bring pressure to bear on the abusers (through appeals, inquiries, and visits or missions to countries); and to support and defend health professionals and groups that work to combat abuses of human rights. The CHHR is currently composed of seven members of the TOM and is directly responsible to the TOM council. The committee is funded by the TOM and has part-time staff support.

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Why does the National Academy of Sciences have a Committee on Human Rights? How does the committee define human rights and which rights are fundamental? Does a focus on human rights undermine efforts toward international scientific cooperation , development, political stability, or nuclear disarmament? Why does the committee work only in behalf of scientists and how do scientists become victims of human rights violations? How and why do some health professionals collude with torturers? These questions are typical of those asked frequently of the members and staff of the academy's Committee on Human Rights. They are important questions that this document helps to answer.

Science and Human Rights is the summary of the presentation and discussion of a Symposium convened by the National Academy of Sciences to discuss these issues. Also included in this report are three major papers written by former prisoners from Chile, South Africa, and the Soviet Union.

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