Academics urged to do more on human rights

A leading activist has called on the academic community to do far more “to help promote and defend human rights”.

December 13, 2013

Human Rights

Carol Corillon, who has directed the Committee on Human Rights in the United States since 1984, said such action was necessary given academics’ position “as scientists, as supporters of science, and as people of conscience”.

She was speaking at Gresham College in London on 9 December as part of a series of events celebrating the 80th anniversary of the Council for Assisting Refugee Academics.

Her committee, she explained, was a joint initiative of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Medicine, and has intervened in many countries in support of persecuted scientific colleagues.

These included, for example, “engineers who expose shoddy school construction that has led to deaths of young children”, “forensic anthropologists who are exhuming the bodies of those who disappeared during dictatorships” and “statisticians who have published figures at odds with rosy-coloured government statistics”.

Their campaigns had led Ms Corillon and her committee into some dramatic situations in places such as Chile, India, Somalia and Turkey.

She gave an example of a mission to Guatemala in 1992, where a meeting with a general “widely believed to be involved in torture, disappearances and murders” was interrupted by the sudden appearance of two men swinging past the window. To this day, she is unsure whether they were “the general’s bodyguard, would-be assassins or simply window washers with a dangerous sense of timing”.

Yet, despite the inevitable setbacks, Ms Corillon was clear that the committee’s “appeals and statements of concern have led to changes in policy…One lesson is that even dictatorial and capricious leaders want to look good” – and can often respond favourably when people “appeal to their egos and vanity, approach them as if they are humanitarians”.

In another event as part of Cara’s anniversary, Jeremy Seabrook will be speaking at the London’s Weiner Library at 1pm on 12 December about “Britain’s attitude towards academic refugees”. 

matthew.reisz@tsleducation.com

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 10 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

Elly Walton illustration (7 July 2016)

Researchers in the liberal arts seem to have made it their mission to communicate in the most obscure fashion, says Zachary Foster

Daniel Mitchell illustration (14 July 2016)

Frank Furedi says the mournful mood on campus and the disparagement and silencing of Leave supporters betray an isolated scholarly class

Michael Parkin illustration (7 July 2016)

Rising immigration-related costs and lack of employer support send an unwelcoming message to international staff, says Jason Danely

Female Brazilian football/soccer fan celebrating with flag of Brazil, Best universities in Latin America

Brazil leads Times Higher Education’s debut ranking of the top universities in Latin America

People walk past second hand books for sale

Shift may be evidence that researchers feel they are increasingly judged on citations and journal impact factors