National Academies Press: OpenBook

Science and Human Rights (1988)


Suggested Citation:"INTRODUCTION." National Research Council. 1988. Science and Human Rights. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9733.
Page 18
Suggested Citation:"INTRODUCTION." National Research Council. 1988. Science and Human Rights. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9733.
Page 19
Suggested Citation:"INTRODUCTION." National Research Council. 1988. Science and Human Rights. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9733.
Page 20

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INTRODUCTION Eliot Stellar First, let me give my thanks for the support and assistance that the Committee on Human Rights has received from the academy membership and foreign associates, particularly our correspondents, and from the Institute of Medicine, the Academy of Engineering, members of Congress and their staff, the Department of State, and other human rights groups and organizations here in the United States and around the world. Without their help, we could not have achieved what we have in our work. Second, let me say that in spite of the sad issues we must deal with, this symposium is a celebration. It is a celebration of the re- lease, over the years, of scientific colleagues like Kamoji Wachiira, a geographer in Kenya; Sion Assidon, a mathematician in Morocco; Juan Jose Hurtado Vega, a physician in Guatemala; Enrique Ladis- lao Hernandez Mendez, an economist in Cuba; I. Made Sutayasa, an archeologist in Indonesia; Rudolf Battek, a sociologist in CzechosIo- vakia; Janusz Onyszkiewicz, a mathematician in Poland; Husain al Shahristani, a physicist in Iraq; and of course, our foreign associate Andrei Sakharov. This symposium ~ also a celebration of marked improvements in human rights situations in countries like Argentina, Uruguay, the Philippines, and Haiti. In the Soviet Union in recent months, under the policy of glasnost, we have seen the release of many of the comrn~ttee's prisoners, including Tosif Begun, Tosif Berenshtein, Anatoly Koryagin, Ivan Kovalev, VIadunir Lifshits, and Tatyana Osipova. Finally, this symposium is a celebration of the presence here today of three of the committee's former prisoners of conscience: Juan Luis Gonzalez of Chile, Ismai! Mohamed of South Africa, and Yuri OrIov of the Soviet Union. While we have much to celebrate, we must, nevertheless, remem- ber that severe violations of human rights still continue in many areas of the world. Our committee considers that one of its responsibilities is to increase awareness of these violations and encourage actions to end them. This we are here to do today not as experts, but as scientists dedicated to human rights msues. Given our limited time, we have tried to narrow our focus to three topics of particular interest to the members of the academy. 18

Each wiD be introduced by one of our committee members. Ger- ard Debreu, professor of economics and mathematics at the Univer- sity of California at Berkeley and the 1983 Nobel Prize laureate in economics, will introduce the first topic on torture, psychiatric abuse, and the ethics of medicine. Gilbert White, Gustavson Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the Institute of Behavioral Science at the University of Colorado and a foreign member of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, will intro- duce the second topic on human rights, human needs, and scientific freedom. Francis Low, institute professor in the Department of Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will introduce the third topic on human rights and human survival. Let us begin. Dr. Debreu.

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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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