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New AAAS Directory Documents Human Rights Abuses
A recently published AAAS guide, the Directory of Persecuted Scientists and Health Professionals, documents the plight of scientists and engineers throughout the world who are reported to have been imprisoned and/or harassed for acting on their beliefs. The directory, produced by the AAAS Science and Human Rights Network, also records how the scientists felt when they discovered that colleagues from other countries were taking action on their behalf.
"Your first sensation is of a deep relief, of deep gratitude to the unknown persons who care about your fate," wrote Moncef Marzouki, a professor of public health who was jailed in Tunisia on charges of anti-government activities. "Please keep writing letters.... It has much more effect than you can imagine. It keeps alive the light of a fire refusing to die."
Many of the letters that governments receive in support of Marzouki and other scientists are generated by the staff of AAAS's 25-year-old human rights program, which sends out e-mail "alerts" whenever scientists request assistance defending their rights, as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
"The program's work is based on the principle that human rights are preconditions for scientific endeavor and should be defended and encouraged as a matter of scientific freedom and responsibility," said AAAS Program Associate Victoria Baxter.
She noted that the decision to support a request for help is based on corroborated and well-documented information from major human rights and scientific organizations. In 2002, AAAS's human rights program addressed alleged violations of the rights of 59 scientists worldwide, from countries as geographically and politically varied as Egypt, Guatemala, and China. Their case studies are described in the AAAS directory, available on the Web site, shr.aaas.org.
12 May 2003