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Science and Human Rights (1988)


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Suggested Citation:"WELCOMING REMARKS." National Research Council. 1988. Science and Human Rights. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9733.
Page 16
Suggested Citation:"WELCOMING REMARKS." National Research Council. 1988. Science and Human Rights. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9733.
Page 17

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WELCOMING REMARKS wiBiam Gordon Members and guests, as foreign secretary of the National Acade- my of Sciences, it is my privilege to welcome you to this symposium on science and human rights sponsored by the academy's Committee on Human Rights. The symposium attests to the importance that the National Academy of Sciences attaches to the committee's work. For more than 10 years the Committee on Human Rights has worked in behalf of scientific colleagues around the world who are believed to be prisoners of conscience. Its caseload has grown from about a dozen in 1976 to more than a hundred active cases today. New cases come to the attention of the committee all of the time; many have been successfully resolved over the years. The term "cases sounds very abstract and legalistic, but each case is, in fact, a human being, a fellow scientist who is imprisoned or internally exiled or who has disappeared. The committee tries to help these colleagues not only by making appeals, but also by reaching out to them in the prisons, in the courts, and in their isolated places of exile through letters to them and to their families. Having three former prisoners of conscience here today as guest speakers and being able to listen to them directly and freely is reward- ing, indeed. We welcome each of you and applaud your courageous efforts in behalf of victims of oppression. ~ cannot talk about the fine work of the committee without mentioning its correspondents, many of whom are in the audience today. Correspondents are members of the academy and its foreign associates and members of the Institute of Medicine who actively assist the committee by making private personal appeals in behalf of imprisoned scientific colleagues. They now number well over one thousand. I am also pleased to announce that the National Academy of Engineering has recently decided that its members should also be invited to become correspondents. We look forward to their help. We are also very grateful for the vital financial support the committee receives from the academy and from a number of private foundations. The committee has had the good fortune of being chaired by three distinguished scientists over the past 10 years. The first chair was Robert Kates and the second, Lipman Bers. The current chair is Eliot Stellar. This symposium was their brainchild, and all three are participants. 16

Eliot Stellar is professor of physiological psychology, Department of Anatomy and Institute of Neurological Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania. ~ should also tell you that he is the newly elected president of the American Philosophical Society, for which we con- gratulate him. Dr. Stellar has served a three-year term with dedica- tion and sensitivity. ~ am pleased to announce that he has accepted our request to serve a second! three-year term. It is a great pleasure to introduce Eliot Stellar.

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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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