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Science, Engineering and Human Rights: A Select Annotated Bibliography

This select annotated bibliography provides a guide to the literature on the relationships between science, engineering and human rights. The following citations are grouped under a variety of headings that encompass disciplinary fields of science and engineering and topics where science, technology and human rights intersect.

Whenever an article listed is available online without restrictions, the URL link is provided. The bibliography is meant as a starting point for scientists, engineers, human rights practitioners, educators, and interested students to begin to explore the larger literature. The last section in this bibliography provides links to online databases and other resources containing further human rights documents and literature.

Unless otherwise noted, suggestions regarding the listings may be sent to the Education and Information Resources working group.

Science and Human Rights: General

Claude, Richard Pierre. (2002). Science in the Service of Human Rights. Philadelphia: University of Philadelphia Press.

An exceptional analysis of the relations between science and human rights. The book is divided into 3 sections: international standards and the role of science in these standards; issues (ethics and technology); and politics (scientists as human rights activists; NGOs, grassroots and transnational governance.

Corillon, Carol. (1989) “The Role of Science and Scientists in Human Rights.” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 506(1): 129-140.

Corillon examines four issues: the scientist as human rights activist, the scientist as human rights victim, the scientist as human rights abuser, and the application of science to human rights work.

Murphy, Therese. (2009). New Technologies and Human Rights. New York: Oxford University Press.

Drawing on an international team of legal scholars, the book reviews and develops the role of human rights in the regulation of new technologies. Particular attention is given to three controversies at the intersection between human rights. First, are human rights contributing to a brave new world of choice, where human dignity is fundamentally compromised? Second, are new technologies a threat to human rights? Finally, can human rights contribute to better regulation of these technologies?

Rubenstein, Leonard and Mona Younis. (28 November 2008) “Scientists and Human Rights.” Science 322: 1303.

The authors reflect on the role of scientists in ensuring a government’s adherence to human rights. They note the contributions scientists have made in making human rights a reality for people everywhere including defending the freedom of scientific inquiry and applying their knowledge and skills in helping to reveal the truths about violations of human rights.

Seltzer, R. (1996). “Scientists can make a difference in defending colleagues’ human rights.” Chemical & Engineering News 74(22): 36.

Scientists have long wrestled with the issues of what they can – and should – do to help colleagues around the world whose human rights are being violated. This article discusses the efforts of the Committee on Human Rights (CHR) sponsored jointly by the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine.

Tangley, L. (1984). “Scientists Campaign for Human Rights.” Bioscience 34(9): 544-545.

Scientists have long been singled out for harassment by repressive governments around the world, and have a special responsibility to help their colleagues in trouble. In recent years more and more scientific societies have become involved. At the 1984 AAAS meeting, 50 activist scientists met to discuss their experiences and new strategies.

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Right to Benefits of Science (Article 15)

Chapman, Audrey R. (2009).”Towards an Understanding of the Right to Enjoy the Benefits of Scientific Progress and Its Applications.” Journal of Human Rights 8(1): 1-36.

Chapman reviews the right to the benefits of scientific progress in international human rights law and its historical background. She considers the human rights principles relevant to a human rights approach to the benefits of science and what it means to respect the freedom indispensable for scientific research. Chapman also explores the obligations to respect, to protect, and to fulfill in relationship to the conservation, development, and diffusion of science.

Claude, Richard P. (2002). “Scientists’ Rights and the Human Rights to the Benefits of Science,” in Chapman and Russell, editors, Core Obligations: Building a Framework for Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, Intersentia, pp. 249-278.

Claude examines aspects of the history of Article 15 and reflects on what a minimum core content of the right to the benefits of scientific progress might entail. He also argues for developing a “violations approach” that documents violations of economic, social, and cultural rights in order to build a framework to assess the parameters of science-related rights.

Schabas, William A. (2007). “Study of the Right to Enjoy the Benefits of Scientific and Technological Progress and its Applications,” in Donder and Volodin, editors, Human Rights in Education, Science and Culture: Legal Developments and Challenges, UNESCO/Ashgate, pp 273-308.

Schabas describes the drafting process for Article 27 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and for Article 15 of the International Covenant. He argues that the right to the benefits of scientific progress necessarily interacts with other rights, such as the right to health and food, but that defining this right had been neglected until debates over intellectual property rights began to recognize its importance.

Wyndham, Jessica. (December 10, 2008). How can we uphold the right to science?”

Wyndham argues, among other things, that scientists and scientific associations should play a leading role in defining the right to the benefits of scientific progress by considering how this right applies to their work, research, training, and teaching.

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Right to Food

Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. (May 12, 1995). “General Comment No. 12, The right to adequate food,” U.N. Doc. E/C.12/1999/5.

Haugen, Hans Morten (2005). “The Right to Food, the Right to Benefit from Science and the TRIPS Agreement,” in W. B. Eide and U. Kracht, editors, Food and Human Rights in Development. Intersentia, pp. 425-460.

Haugen examines the impact of the TRIPS Agreement of the World Trade Organization upon the capabilities of states to implement their obligations to ensure the fundamental right to food and the freedom from hunger.

Kent, George, editor. (2008). Global Obligations for the Right to Food. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

While governments have primary obligations for assuring the realization of the right to food for people under their jurisdiction, we are all responsible in some measure. This book explores the various actions that should be undertaken by governments, nongovernmental organizations, and individuals.

Kunneman, Rolf and Sandra Epal-Ratjen. (2004). The Right to Food: A Resource Manual for NGOs. AAAS, 120 pp.

A resource manual for NGOs commissioned from FIAN International (FoodFirst Information and Action Network) by AAAS and HURIDOCS with funding from the Ford Foundation and the UK Department of International Development.

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Right to Health

Claude, Richard Pierre and Wissel B. Issel. (1998). “Health, Medicine and Science in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,Health and Human Rights 3(2): 127-142.

The authors describe the debates and diverse perspectives of United Nations representatives responsible for formulating Article 25 (relating to health and medical care) and 27 (relating to science) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These articles supply important normative guidelines for human rights and public health policy. UN representatives agreed that scientists deserve freedom in their work, but modified Article 27 by adding that the general public should share in the benefits of science.

Farmer, Paul. (1999). “Pathologies of power: rethinking health and human rights,” American Journal of Public Health 89(10): 1486-1496.

Farmer argues that “careful study reveals that state power has been responsible for most human rights violations and that most violations are embedded in “structural violence”–social and economic inequities that determine who will be at risk for assaults and who will be shielded. He advances an agenda for research and action grounded in the struggle for social and economic rights, an agenda suited to public health and medicine.

Faunce, Thomas A. (2007). “Nanotechnology in Global Medicine and Human Biosecurity: Private Interests, Policy Dilemmas, and the Calibration of Public Health Law.” The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics 35(4): 629-642.

Faunce analyzes the normative challenges posed by nanotechnology, such as: the risk of DNA damage from engineered nanoparticles in medicines that were “fast track” approved and aggressively marketed directly to consumers, the high cost of technically “innovative” nanomedicines that offer only marginal public health improvements, and the risk of ubiquitous intrusions in private life through far more efficient nanotechnology surveillance equipment for emergent infectious disease and bioterrorist threats.

Gruskin, S., E. Mills, and D. Tarantola. (2007). “History, principles, and practice of health and human rights.” The Lancet, 370(9585): 449-455.

Individuals and populations suffer violations of their rights that affect health and wellbeing. Health professionals have a part to play in reduction and prevention of these violations and ensuring that health-related policies and practices promote rights. Authors discuss the changing views of human rights in the context of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and propose further development of the right to health by increased practice, evidence, and action.

Jacobson, Peter D. and Soheil Soleman. (2002). “Co-opting the health and human rights movement.” The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics 30(4): 705-715.

The authors argue that the health and human rights rhetoric is susceptible to being co-opted by industry opponents of public health initiatives. For example, they argue that opponents have co-opted the human rights language in battles over tobacco and gun control policy to the detriment of desirable public health goals. They discuss the limits to embedding human rights in law and argue that a more effective strategy might be to organize public health social movements.

Mann, Jonathan M. “Health and human rights.” (1996). British Medical Journal 312(7036): 924-925.

Editorial discusses the current health and human rights movement. The world of health and human rights has moved away from simplistic assumptions about a necessary conflict between public health goals and human rights norms.

Marks, Stephen P. (2002). “The evolving field of health and human rights: Issues and methods.” The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics 30(4): 739-754.

This commentary surveys the papers in this issue both to take stock of the health and human rights movement and to engage the authors in a dialogue on the interconnectedness and mutually reinforcing character of health and human rights in research on AIDS and other diseases, the international economy, the role of law, and measuring human rights performance.

Singh, J. A., M. Govendar, and E. Mills. (2007). “Do human rights matter to health?” The Lancet 370(9586): 521-527.

Legal instruments and litigation as a way to enforce the rights to life and to health is a relatively new strategy that is increasingly common. We show how legal measures have been used to attain health and human rights with case examples from India and South Africa that resulted in large public-health benefits.

Tarantola, Daniel. (2008). “A Perspective on the History of Health and Human Rights: from the Cold War to the Gold War,” Journal of Public Health Policy 29: 42-53.

This article examines the emergence of human rights and the rise of health on the international development agenda as the Cold War was ending. It highlights the convergence of health and human rights in academic and public discourse since the end of the Cold War in a context of political and economic shifts linked to the ongoing economic globalization.

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Right to Housing

Barber, Rebecca J. (2008). “Protecting the Right to Housing in the Aftermath of Natural Disaster: Standards in International Human Rights Law,” International Journal of Refugee Law 20: 432-468.

Barber considers the applicability of human rights law (specifically economic, social and cultural rights) in the aftermath of a natural disaster. She discusses the right to housing and the obligations of countries to fulfill this right in the course of responding to a disaster, drawing on examples from the Indian Ocean tsunami (2004), the Pakistan earthquake (2005) and the South Asian floods (2007).

Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. (Dec. 12, 1991). “General Comment No. 4, The right to adequate housing,” U.N. Doc. E/1992/23 annex III at 114.

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Right to Water

Bluemel, Erik B. (2005). “The Implications of Formulating a Human Right to Water,” Ecology Law Quarterly 31:957.

The human right to water is not fully defined by current international law or practice, but it has been protected as necessary to secure other human rights, such as the rights to health, well-being and life. State obligations to this right depend upon which human right a right to water is found to support or whether the human right to water is found to be a separate and independent human right from other rights.

Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. (November 26, 2002). “General Comment No. 15, The Right to Water,” U.N.Doc E/C.12/2002/11.

Gorsboth, Maike. (2006). “Identifying and Addressing Violations of the Human Right to Water: Applying the Human Rights Approach.” Brot fur die Welt.

Provides an introduction that describes the right to water and criteria to identify and address violations of the right to water in specific situations.

Hardberger, Amy. (2005). “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Water: Evaluating Water as a Human Right and the Duties and Obligations It Creates,” North Western Journal of International Human Rights 4:331.

Hardberger demonstrates the need to establish water as a human right and thereby raise the right to water to the status of customary law.

Hardberger, Amy. (2006). “Whose Job Is It Anyway?: Government Obligations Created by the Human Right to Water,” Texas International Law Journal 41:533.

Harberger analyzes the consequences for governments if the human right to water becomes an accepted norm of international law. She expands the traditional notion that a human right is enforceable by a citizen against her government by investigating intra-governmental responsibilities in different situations.

Scanlon, John, et. al. (2004). “Water as a Human Right?” IUCN environmental policy and law paper, no. 51.

Explores the benefits and content of a right to water. Asks what mechanisms would be required for effective implementation of a right to water and whether the duty to realize the right should be placed solely on governments alone or also be borne by private actors.

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Rights of Scientists, Engineers and Health Professionals

Schulz, W. G. (2003). “Securing Human Rights.” Chemical & Engineering News 81(47): 21-24.

Schulz reports on networks of scientists and scientific societies that come to the aid of imperiled colleagues in securing human rights. He discusses how these networks are formalized at most major scientific societies, such as the American Chemical Society, which monitor and address scientific freedom and human rights worldwide.

Seltzer, R. (1996). “Scientists can make a difference in defending colleagues’ human rights.” Chemical & Engineering News 74(22): 36.

Scientists have long wrestled with the issues of what they can – and should – do to help colleagues around the world whose human rights are being violated. This article discusses the efforts of the Committee on Human Rights (CHR) sponsored jointly by the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine.

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Annas, George J. (2004). “American Bioethics and Human Rights: The End of All Our Exploring.” The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics 32(4): 658-663.

American bioethics can be reborn as an effective force for promoting both health and human rights by recognizing its common historical roots with international human rights in World War II, especially the Nuremberg tribunals and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Bioethics, health law, and human rights are all members of a globalized human rights community that takes individual rights, the right to health, and the public’s health as core concerns.

Arsanjani, Mahnoush H. (2006). “Negotiating the UN Declaration on Human Cloning,” The American Journal of International Law 100(1): 164-179.

Baker, Robert. (2001) “Bioethics and Human Rights: A Historical Perspective.” Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 10(3): 241-252.

Bioethics and human rights were conceived in the aftermath of the Holocaust, when moral outrage reenergized the outmoded concepts of “medical ethics” and “natural rights,” renaming them “bioethics,” and “human rights” to give them new purpose. Originally, the principles of bioethics were a means for protecting human rights, but through a historical accident, bioethical principles came to be considered as fundamental. Baker urges reconciliation of bioethics and human rights.

Beyrer, Chris and E. K. Nancy (2002). “Human rights, politics, and reviews of research ethics.” The Lancet 360(9328): 246.

Authors argue that researchers should determine whether research could or should be done by consulting human rights organisations and, when possible, a trusted colleague, to learn the background political context and human rights conditions of the settings in which they propose to do research.

Cameron, Nigel M. de S., and Anna V. Henderson. (2008) “Brave New World at the General Assembly: The United Nations Declaration on Human Cloning,” Minnesota Journal of Law, Science & Technology 9(1):145-238. 

The authors discuss how debate on human cloning, held during the United Nations General Assembly between 2000 and 2004, divided the United States and the United Kingdom, but sparked a coalition of developing world states with the Bush Administration.

Faunce, T. A. (2005). “Will international human rights subsume medical ethics? Intersections in the UNESCO Universal Bioethics Declaration,” Journal of Medical Ethics 31:173-178. 

Author discusses whether the process involved in the drafting of a Universal Bioethics Declaration would facilitate bioethics and, in particular, medical ethics, being subsumed by the normative system of international human rights.

Langlois, Adele. (2008). “The UNESCO Universal Declaration of Bioethics and Human Rights: Perspectives from Kenya and South Africa,” Health Care Analysis 16:39-51.

In October 2005, UNESCO adopted the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights. As a non-binding instrument, the declaration must be incorporated by UNESCO’s member states into their national laws, regulations or policies in order to take effect. Based on documentary evidence and data from interviews, this paper compares the declaration’s universal principles with national bioethics guidelines and practice in Kenya and South Africa.

Ryan, Maura A. (2008). “Health and Human Rights.” Theological Studies 69(1): 144-163.

The AIDS pandemic has focused renewed attention on the relationship between the promotion of health and the protection of human rights. Recent work by Paul Farmer and others challenges bioethics to address urgent questions of global health equity not only on the level of method but in the form of strategic partnerships with the most vulnerable populations. This article highlights both the promise and the limits of a human rights framework for bioethics.

Stover, Eric and Harvey Weinstein (2001). “Health, Human Rights, and Ethics.” Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 10(3): 335.

Public health and human rights are complementary–and, at times, conflicting–approaches to protecting and promoting human well-being and dignity. Public health addresses the needs of populations and seeks, through intervention and education, to prevent the spread of disease. Human rights describe the obligations of governments to safeguard their citizenry from harm and to create conditions where each individual can achieve his or her full potential. Human rights norms lie at the core of public health theory and practice, and their enforcement can help to ensure an equitable distribution of health resources.

Thomasma, David, C. (1997). “Bioethics and international human rights.” The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics 25(4): 295-306.

Noting how the spread of medical technology is creating clashes with traditional values and within cultures, Thomasma addresses the clash between Western rights-based incentives, as used by the UN to guarantee respect for life and dignity, and communitarian traditions. A mean between wholesale cultural relativism and international absolutism is proposed.

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Willems, Gwen M. (2006). “A Comparative Approach to Human Rights Education,” Education and Society, 24: 87-97.

Willems explores human rights education today in the United States and how, in a time of changing international power dynamics, a comparative approach to complex human rights stories can facilitate meaningful learning. She argues that teaching about human rights in a comparative framework is a powerful educational tool that promotes critical thinking skills and civic competence.

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Caney, Simon. (2008) “Human rights, climate change, and discounting.” Environmental Politics 17(4): 536-555.

Derman, Bill and Anne Ferguson. (1995). “Human rights, environment, and development: The dispossession of fishing communities on Lake Malawi.” Human Ecology: An Interdisciplinary Journal 23: 125-142.

Examines how the linked processes of economic development, political power and environmental change are transgressing the rights of fishing communities on the shores of Lake Malawi in Africa. Nature of political ecology; Political and economic status of Malawi; Eviction of Mdulumanja fishing community.

Johnston, Barbara Rose. (1995). “Human rights and the environment.” Human Ecology: An Interdisciplinary Journal 23: 111-123.

Introduction to issue of Human Ecology that focuses on the interrelated nature of crisis in human and environmental systems and argues that the right to a healthy environment is a fundamental human right.

Kalin, Walter and Claudine Haenni Dale. (2008). “Disaster Risk Mitigation–Why Human Rights Matter,” Forced Migration Review 31: 38-39.

Examines deaths due to natural disasters as human rights violations of the state.

Ryan, Maura A. (2006). “The Politics of Risk: A Human Rights Paradigm for Children’s Environmental Health Research.” Environmental Health Perspectives 114(10): 1613-1616.

A human rights paradigm for environmental health research incorporates support for community-based, participatory research and takes seriously the social responsibilities of researchers. A human rights approach may be better able than conventional bioethics to address the unique issues that arise in the context of pediatric environmental health research, particularly the place of environmental justice standards in research.

Sachs, Wolfgang. (2008). “Climate Change and Human Rights,” Development 51: 332-337.

Sachs makes the case that cuts in fossil fuel use are imperative not only to protect the atmosphere but also to protect human rights.

United Nations Human Rights Council. (2009). “Human Rights Council holds panel discussion on climate change and human rights.” UN Press Release, 15 June 2009.

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Intellectual Property

Chapman, Audrey R. (2000). “Approaching intellectual property as a human right: Obligations related to Article 15(1)(c),” UN Doc. E/C. 12/2000/12, 3 October 2000.

Chapman warns that unless human rights advocates provide an adequate counterweight to economic interests, the intellectual property landscape will be reshaped without adequate consideration of the impact on human rights.

Green, Maria. (2000). “Drafting history of Article 15(1)(c) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,” UN Doc. E/C. 12/2000/15, 9 October 2000.

Green carefully analyzes the historical language and meanings behind the drafting of Article 15 in the late 1940s and early 1940. She observes that the drafters did not appear to deeply consider the difficult balance between public needs and private rights when it comes to intellectual property.

Loff, Bebe and Mark Heywood. (2002). “Patents on drugs: Manufacturing scarcity or advancing health?” The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics 30(4): 621-631.

Authors presents evidence of the impact of patents on health and access to medicine using South Africa, Brazil, and Thailand as case studies. Intellectual property law as now partnered with world trade law is a significant determinant of a medicine’s price and therefore of who has access to what drugs. An argument is made to support the precedence of human rights, such as the right to health, over intellectual property rights.

Millum, J. (2008). “Are pharmaceutical patents protected by human rights?” Journal of Medical Ethics 34(11): E25.

The International Bill of Rights enshrines a right to health, which includes a right to access essential medicines. This right frequently appears to conflict with the intellectual property regime that governs pharmaceutical patents. However, there is also a human right that protects creative works, including scientific productions. Millum examines an attempt by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to resolve this issue.

Sheremeta, Lorraine and Bartha Maria Knoppers. (2003). “Beyond the rhetoric: population genetics and benefit-sharing.” Health Law Journal 11: 89-117.

Views on intellectual property protection differ substantially between the North and the South. The South tends to view the accumulation of intellectual property on human genetic material as antithetical to their world-view. The industrialized North tends to favour strong intellectual property protection and a broad interpretation of patentable subject matter. However, some “Southern” states, including Brazil, have utilized intellectual property to protect non-human biological materials. This perceived dichotomy may be over-exaggerated as demonstrated by the more nuanced position adopted by the World Health Organization with respect to “Genomics and World Health”.

Yu, Peter K. (2007). “Reconceptualizing Intellectual Property Interests in a Human Rights Framework,” University of California Davis Law Review 40: 1039-1149.

Yu provides a brief history of the drafting of article 27(2) of the UDHR and article 15(1)(c) of the ICESCR. He recaptures the politically-charged environment under which the two instruments were created and the controversy surrounding the protection of moral and material interests in intellectual creations. He then discusses the various attributes of intellectual property rights that are protected by international or regional human rights instruments and explores approaches that have been used to resolve conflicts between human rights and the non-human rights aspects of intellectual property protection.

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Further Resources

AAAS Scientific Responsibility, Human Rights and Law Program, Publications

AAAS Scientific Responsibility, Human Rights and Law Program, Resources on Article 15

American Medical Student Association, Health and Human Rights Resource List

Health and Human Rights Journal. Many articles are available online via collaboration with JSTOR.

Human Rights Education Association

Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Human Rights Collection. (Subscription required.)

United Nations Documents

University of Minnesota, Human Rights Library.  More than 65,000 documents.

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American Anthropological Association. (1999). Declaration on Anthropology and Human Rights.

Engle, Karen. (2001) “From Skepticism to Embrace: Human Rights and the American Anthropological Association 1947-1999.” Human Rights Quarterly 23(3):536-559.

Engle explores the debate among anthropologists, ever since the AAAS submitted its Statement on Human Rights to the United Nations in 1947, over the tensions between the limits of tolerance and cultural relativism with the pursuit of more universal norms of social justice.

Goodale, Mark. (2008). Human Rights: An Anthropological Reader. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

A well-organized volume that includes a variety of methodologies and intellectual approaches within anthropology.

Martínez, Samuel and Catherine Buerger. (2017). "Human Rights," in Jackson, editor, Oxford Bibliographies in Anthropology, Oxford University Press.

This resource provides an overview of the treatment of human rights by anthropologists in a general sense, and addresses several specific topics, including cultural relativism, the 1947 AAA Statement on Human Rights, cross-cultural equivalents of the human rights paradigm, indigenous rights, cultural rights, humanitarianism, quantification and measurement of human rights metrics, genocide, female genital cutting, gender, and post-conflict societies. The bibliography entry provides a summary for each topic, and additional resources that cover the topic in more detail. Martínez and Buerger describe the relationship between anthropology and human rights as one that has moved from using human rights norms and doctrines as tools for advocacy, to seeing these objects as the subjects of ethnographic research themselves. This branch of anthropology examines both the practice and discourse of human rights, and the authors argue that anthropological research on human rights often foregrounds "the local, national, and international political and economic processes in which human rights and larger social justice projects are embedded."

Messer, Ellen. (1993). “Anthropology and Human Rights,” Annual Review of Anthropology 22: 221-249.

Reviews the engagement of anthropologists with human rights and controversies in anthropology over cultural relativism and their bearing on research and theory.

Singer, Merrill. (2015). "Public Anthropology and Structural Engagement: Making Ameliorating Social Inequality Our Primary Agenda," in Beck and Maida, editors, Public Anthropology in a Borderless World, Bergahn Books, pp. 144-161. 

Singer addresses the relatively recent push in anthropology to develop a "public" anthropology, describing the history of this movement and its purpose. He argues that the central meaning of public anthropology is to teach the methods of social criticism on the public stage to the discipline, which provides a critical assessment of inequality and power as the forces that shape the world. Thus, public anthropology can be a tool for analyzing and calling attention to dynamics of power that create human rights inequalities. 

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Biological Sciences

Carvalho, J. J. (2007) “The Scientist as Statesman: Biologists and Third World Health.” Zygon: Journal of Religion & Science 42(2): 289-300.

What is the role of the biomedical scientist amid the world’s growing poverty crisis and the related human rights inequalities and the spread of diseases in underprivileged areas, The author provides examples of where the scientist can interface with human rights organizations, medical doctors, political and civic leaders, and the science-religion dialogue. He argues that the emerging role of the biomedical scientist is one of public service in addition to and beyond the realm of the experimental investigator.

Di Lonardo AM, Darlu P, Baur M, Orrego C, King MC. (1984) “Human genetics and human rights. Identifying the families of kidnapped children.” American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology 5:339-47.

Between 1975 and 1983 in Argentina, at least 145 children were kidnapped with their parents or born in captivity to imprisoned women and then separated from their mothers. The parents of these children generally remain among the missing persons. However, laboratory analysis of genetic markers in human blood enables the calculation of an “index of grandpaternity.” This approach has been applied successfully in Argentina, with an index of grandpaternity for one family of 99.9%, based on HLA typing only.

Gunderson, M. (2007) “Human Rights, Dignity, and the Science of Genetic Engineering.” Social Philosophy Today 22: 43-57.

In the past decade several international declarations have called for banning reproductive non-therapeutic and germ-line engineering. For example, Article 11 of UNESCO’s Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights states that practices that are contrary to human dignity such as cloning of human beings should not be permitted. Article 13 of the Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine simply forbids germ-line engineering except for diagnostic or therapeutic purposes. The author argues that there are forms of germ-line and non-therapeutic engineering that are compatible with human rights.

King, Mary-Claire. (1991). “An application of DNA sequencing to a human rights problem.” Mol Genet Med 1:117-31.

Marks, Stephen, P. (2002). “Tying Prometheus down: The international law of human genetic manipulation.” Chicago Journal of International Law 3(1): 115-136.

Marks discusses the assumptions underlying the specific instruments of international law that address genetic manipulation, and focuses on the human rights implications of these technologies. While international law cannot resolve the tension between hope for and fear of advances in biotechnology and genetics, it is already deeply engaged in the issue through international trade and property law.

Owens, Kelly N., Michelle Harvey-Blankenship, and Mary-Claire King. (2002). “Genomic sequencing in the service of human rights.” International Journal of Epidemiology 31(1): 53-58.

Tools of genomic analysis have been used to assist the identification of victims of human rights violations. The authors describe two applications, the identification of a young adult Argentinian born in captivity 22 years ago when his mother was abducted and disappeared in Buenos Aires in 1978, and the identification of remains found in mass graves in the Balkans in the 1990s.

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The science and human rights entries for chemistry reflect the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) support for these rights and describe protocols and criteria for addressing violations of such rights.  Although few scholarly publications have appeared on science and human rights issues in the chemical-related sciences, we have included the primer and those entries reflective of the issues involved.  In addition, a link is provided to the ongoing ACS webinar program that informs the public on how to identify appropriate and practical solutions to human rights problems facing the scientific community.

American Chemical Society. AAAS Welfare of Scientists Working Group Primer on Scientific Freedom and Human Rights. 

This primer focuses on equipping scientific and engineering societies, as well as other scientifically oriented organizations, with the tools to effectively develop processes and procedures to address human rights issues, particularly responding to allegations of human rights violations.

Greer, Alexander. 2011. "Chemistry Students and Human Rights." Chemistry & Biodiversity: 2158-2161.

This letter to the Editor describes how human rights and chemical education are intricately wound together.  Very few chemistry majors in the U.S. are involved in human rights activities.  The 1970s was a high point of the human rights movement. Even among scientists, there used to be a great deal of activism, but this activism declined in recent years.  To reverse the trend, the author describes the need of involving students without necessarily introducing material to the curriculum.  

Tarver, Edward E. 2004. "External Second Gate, Fourier Transform Ion Mobility Spectrometry: Parametric Optimization for Detection of Weapons of Mass Destruction." Sensors 4(1): 1-13. 

Ion mobility spectrometry (IMS) is recognized as one of the most sensitive and robust techniques for the detection of narcotics, explosives and chemical warfare agents. Increasing threat of terrorist attacks, the proliferation of narcotics, Chemical Weapons Convention treaty verification, and humanitarian de-mining efforts have mandated that equal importance be placed on the analysis time, as well as the quality of the analytical data.  IMS unrivaled when both speed of response and sensitivity have to be considered.

Viesti, G; Lunardon, M; Nebbia, G; et al. 2006. “The detection of landmines by neutron backscattering: Exploring the limits of the technique.”  Applied Radiation and Isotopes 64(6): 706-716.

Neutron backscattering (NB) sensors have been proposed for humanitarian de-mining applications.  Recently, a prototype hand-held system integrating a NB sensor in a metal detector has been developed within the EU-funded DIAMINE Project.  The results obtained in terms of performance of the NB systems and limitations in its use are presented in this work.  It is found that the performance of NB sensors is strongly limited by the presence of the soil moisture and by its small-scale variations.  The use of the neutron hit distribution to reduce false alarms is explored. 

American Chemical Society Science and Human Rights Webinar series.

Suggestions regarding the listings for chemistry and human rights may be sent to Larry Krannich at or to Brad Miller at

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Seymour, Dan. (2008). “Human rights and economics: the conceptual basis for their complementarity,” Development Policy Review 26: 387-406.    

Human rights theory can help provide a normative framework that avoids some of the pitfalls of welfare theory, and can help economists deal with issues of exploitation and power relations. These complementarities have increased in importance as the development discourse incorporates legal and political issues previously considered beyond the scope of economists and development practitioners.

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American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. (1983) “AIAA Position Paper on Human Rights.”

Hoole, S. Ratnajeevn H. (2002) “Viewpoint: Human Rights in the Engineering Curriculum.” International Journal of Engineering Education 18(6):618-626.

Hoole argues that it is important to teach human rights to all engineering students. But teaching human rights in countries where it is most needed, such as war torn Sri Lanka, is difficult due to the sensitivity of the subject.

Luegenbiehl, Heinz C. (2003) “Themes for an international code of engineering ethics.” 

Paper presented at the 2003 ASEE/WFEO International Colloquium.

Lynch, Daniel R. (2004). “A Human Rights Challenge to the Engineering Profession Ethical Dimensions and Leadership Opportunities in Professional Formation.”

Paper presented at the American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference and Exhibition.

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Forensic Anthropology

The entries in forensic anthropology focus on its history and the multiple dimensions of its recent application to human rights investigations; especially those involving location, recovery and identification of decedents.  These entries also reveal the complexity and cultural nuance inherent in global human rights investigations.    

Doretti, Mercedes and Clyde C. Snow. (2009). “Forensic Anthropology and Human Rights: The Argentine Experience”.   In: Dawnie Wolfe Steadman (Ed.) Hard Evidence: Case Studies in Forensic Anthropology. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. Pp. 303-320. 

Doretti and Snow chronicle the evolution of human rights investigations in Argentina, from the incipient and at times partisan efforts of the National Commission on Disappeared People (CONADEP) to later AAAS support for the creation of the EAAF (Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team), an organization still in global operation today. 

Fondebrider, Luis. (2009). “The Application of Forensic Anthropology to the Investigation of Cases of Political Violence: Perspectives from South America”. In: Soren Blau, Douglas H. Ubelaker (Eds.) Handbook of Forensic Archaeology and Anthropology. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press. Pp. 67-75. 

Focusing on the nuances of investigations of political violence, particularly distrust of the state and the strong emotional response of surviving family members, Fondebrider also emphasizes the unique role of Latin American forensic organizations, born out of necessity rather than academia (p.70), and the value this experience can have for novice investigators worldwide.

Kimmerle, Erin H. (2013) “Forensic Anthropology: A Human Rights Approach”. In: MariaTeresa A. Tersigni-Tarrant and Natalie R. Shirley (Eds.) Forensic Anthropology: An Introduction. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, Pp. 421-438. 

Kimmerle provides a comprehensive overview of various human rights organizations and forensic groups, as well as the key philosophies underlying human rights investigations and the forensic methods used in recovery of remains. 

Sterenberg, Jon. (2009). “Dealing with the Remains of Conflict: An International Response to Crimes against Humanity, Forensic Recovery, Identification and Repatriation in the Former Yugoslavia”. In: Soren Blau, Douglas H. Ubelaker (Eds.) Handbook of Forensic Archaeology  and Anthropology. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press. Pp. 416-425. 

Based specifically on the recovery efforts in Bosnia and Herzegovina following conflicts of the former Yugoslavia, Sterenberg stresses the necessity of a consistent, controlled and impartial investigation. 

Tidball-Binz, Morris. (2013). “Global forensic science and the search for the dead and missing from armed conflict: the perspective of the International Committee of the Red Cross”. In: Douglas H. Ubelaker (Ed.) Forensic Science: Current Issues, Future Directions. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, Ltd. Pp. 337-365. 

From the perspective of the ICRC, Tidball-Binz explores the principles behind international humanitarian law and forensic investigations, relying on case studies and experience to establish recommendations and best practices. 

Suggestions regarding the listings for forensic anthropology and human rights may be sent to Doug Ubelaker at

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Forensic Sciences

Skolnick, A. A. (1992). “Game’s Afoot in Many Lands for Forensic Scientists Investigating Most-Extreme Human Rights Abuses.” JAMA 268(5): 579.

Although plagued by death squads and political killings, Guatemala was the site of a training course, held in the summer of 1992, in the use of forensic science for the investigation of human rights abuses. The course established a team of forensic anthropologists in Guatemala who worked to identify victims of death squads.

Skolnick, A. A. (1995). “Forensic scientists helping Haiti heal.” JAMA 274(15): 1181.

The AAAS Science and Human Rights Program created a team of forensic scientists to assist the Haitian Truth and Justice Commission to investigate atrocities that occurred during Haiti’s military coup in 1994. Discusses inaccurate memories of witnesses and the exhumation of human remains along the Roboteau beach.

Skolnick, A. A. (2001). “Bearing Witness for the Dead: A Pathologist’s Quest for Justice.” Medhunters winter 2001: 14-17.

Describes the human rights work of Dr. Robert Kirschner.

Snow, Clyde C., Eric Stover, and Kari Hannibal. (1989). “Scientists as Detectives: Investigating Human Rights.” Technology Review 92(2): 42.

Forensic scientists such as pathologists, archaeologists and geneticists helped to identify the “disappeared,” victims of Argentina’s military dictatorship killed between 1976 and 1983.

Tedeschi, Luke G. (1984) “Methodology in the forensic sciences: Documentation of human rights abuses.” American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology 5(4):301-303.

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 “On January 14, 2009, over 50 scientific associations came together to launch the Science and Human Rights Coalition in a three-day series of workshops, presentations, and strategic meetings in Washington, DC. As one of the founding members of the Coalition, the Association of American Geographers contributed greatly to the formation of the Coalition during the months preceding its formal launch, and AAG representatives participated throughout the event…The AAG continues to support the Coalition, which is led by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), by fostering scholarly discourse on how geography and geographers can contribute to the protection of human rights and by helping to disseminate information and resources critical to this effort, among other activities.” Excerpted

Association of American Geographers Geography & Human Rights Clearinghouse and Forum.

Geography & Human Rights Bibliography

The AAG bibliography is a searchable compilation of over 700 publications of geographical research, studies and perspective on human rights issues. Author abstracts and links to the full text have been included where available. This database has been compiled as a representative sample of the body of geography/human rights literature. Readers are encouraged to submit additional sources. The following is a brief sample of works available in the Association of American Geographers Geography & Human Rights Bibliography.

Annotated Journal Articles: 

Richardson, Tim; Ole B. Jensen. 2008. How Mobility Systems Produce Inequality: Making Mobile Subject Types on the Bangkok Sky Train. Built Environment. 34(2): 218‐231. 

This paper studies the relationship between urban transportation systems and social inequality, discusses sustainable mobility, and offers a case study of challenges presented by transit infrastructure.  

Li Yimin; Haihong Yin; Suhong Liu. 2011. Relocation selection for poverty alleviation: Factor analysis and GIS modeling. Journal of Mountain Science. 8(3): 466‐475. 

This article uses GIS and factor analysis of land resources to explore the success of resettlement programs for economically disadvantaged mountain dwelling populations in China, including the selection of suitable resettlement sites. 

Johnson, Pamela Jo, MPH, PhD; Kathleen Thiede Call, PhD; Lynn A. Blewett, PhD 2010. The Importance of Geographic Data Aggregation in Assessing Disparities in American Indian Prenatal CareAmerican Journal of Public Health. 100(1): 122‐128. 

Presents data analysis techniques to better identify and address inequalities in access to and use of pre-natal care for Native American populations. 

Timár, Judit; Éva G. Fekete. 2010. Fighting for recognition: feminist geography in East‐Central Europe. Gender, Place & Culture: A Journal of Feminist Geography. 17(6): 775‐790. 

Discusses the development of Feminist Geography in post-socialist East Central Europe, and the resistance practitioners have faced from traditional fields. 

Farbotko, Carol. 2010. Wishful sinking: Disappearing islands, climate refugees and cosmopolitan experimentation. Asia Pacific Viewpoint. 51(1): 47‐60. 

Explores environmental justice issues related to climate change and sea level rise’s effects on island nations, and the resulting predicament of climate refugees. 

Gill, Nick. 2010. ‘Environmental Refugees’: Key Debates and the Contributions of Geographers. Geography Compass. 4(7): 861‐871.

This article synthesizes geographical research on environmental refugees, and emphasizes current and potential contributions of geography to the discussion of the relationship between environmental change and human response. 

Annotated Books

Soja, Edward W. 2010. Seeking Spatial Justice. University of Minnesota Press.

This book explores Spatial Justice as a form of Social Justice, for example, ensuring a world where all citizens have a basic right to the services of a city. 

Shelley, Louise. 2010. Human Trafficking: A Global Perspective. Cambridge University Press.

The book presents a global overview of all forms of human trafficking, its impacts, and its effect on the future, and proposed solutions. Case studies are included. 

Afifi, Tamer; Jill Jäger, eds. 2010. Environment, Forced Migration and Social Vulnerability. Springer.

This book explores the relationship between environmental change and forced migration, resulting in environmental or climate refugees.

Further Reading- Journal Articles 

Lemon, Anthony; Jane Battersby‐Lennard. 2011. Studying together, living apart: Emerging geographies of school attendance in post‐apartheid Cape Town. African Affairs 110 (438): 97‐120. 

Chakraborty, Jayajit. 2011. Revisiting Tobler’s First Law of Geography: Spatial Regression Models for Assessing Environmental Justice and Health Risk Disparities. Geospatial Analysis of Environmental Health. 4(3): 337‐356. 

Pope, Cynthia K.; Gerald Shoultz. 2012. An interdisciplinary approach to HIV/AIDS stigma and discrimination in Belize: the roles of geography and ethnicity. GeoJournal. 77(4):489-503. 

Morgan, Kevin. 2010. Local and green, global and fair: the ethical foodscape and the politics of care. Environment and Planning A. 42(8): 1852‐1867.

Hunter, Mark. 2010. Beyond the male‐migrant: South Africa's long history of health geography and the contemporary AIDS pandemic. Health & Place. 16(1): 25‐33. 

Rey, Sergio J.; Myrna L. Sastre‐Gutierrez. 2010. Interregional Inequality Dynamics in Mexico. Spatial Economic Analysis. 5(3): 277‐298. 

Suggested listings for geography and human rights may be sent to Sheryl Luzzadder-Beach at

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Bray, John, “Petroleum and human rights; the new frontiers of debate”, Oil & Gas Journal, November 01, 1999, Vol. 97, Issue 44, pp. 65-69.

This article analyzes the sources of pressure for change on the relationship between the petroleum industry and human rights; discusses how companies can meet the new challenges; and identifies the most sensitive issues in the current international debate and the likely way forward.

Handelsman, Simon D.; Scoble, Malcolm; Veiga, Marcello, “Human rights and the minerals industry; challenges for geoscientists,” Exploration and Mining Geology, October, 2003, Vol. 12, Issue 1-4, pp. 5-20.

This paper examines the types of conflict concerning human rights that are encountered by geoscientists involved in mineral exploration and development  and suggests approaches for positive engagement. 

Handelsman, S. D.; Veiga, M.; Scoble, M.; Lowrey, D. B.,  “Issues of human rights issues confronting Canadian companies operating overseas” Abstract Volume [Geological Association of Canada], 2007, Vol. 32, pp. 36.

This paper summarizes four Canadian National Roundtables on Corporate Social Responsibility and the Canadian Extractive Sector in Developing Countries held in response to a recommendation that the government “Establish clear legal norms in Canada to ensure that Canadian companies and residents are held accountable when there is evidence of environmental and/or human rights violations associated with the activities of Canadian mining companies."

Suggestions regarding the listings for geology and human rights may be sent to Kasey White at

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Information Science and Technology

The topic of Information Science and Technology (IST) and Human Rights is enormous and covers all ethical and human rights issues related to the life cycle of all types of information, from its creation and instantiation through its organization, management, preservation, to its dissemination (in any form, including oral communication), evaluation and use. Within IST are two over-arching and inter-related areas: information ethics and information policy, starting with the important distinction among types of information (e.g., personally identifiable, classified or proprietary, public such as actions of governments, etc.). Under these are more specific topics, such as protection of privacy of personally identifiable information; balancing security, access and privacy; protection and use of intellectual property; freedom of expression and censorship; and many others. Many IST associations have codes of ethics and advocacy programs to ensure that human rights are protected. 

Britz, Johannes J. (2008). Making the global information society good: A social justice perspective on the ethical dimensions of the global information society. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology. 59(7), 1171-1183.

Britz discusses social justice as a moral norm for addressing ethical challenges in the global information society, seen as a continuation of relationships altered by information and communication technologies (ICT).  It provides a brief overview of key socio-ethical issues and discusses the application of social justice to address the challenges. Three core principles of justice and seven categories of justice are introduced.

Capurro, Rafael. (March 2005). Privacy: An intercultural perspective. Ethics and Information Technology. 7(1), 37-47. 

Capurro explores intercultural aspects of privacy, particularly concerning differences between Japanese and Western perspectives, including examining the concept of denial of self" (Musi). He begins with Western subjectivity and human dignity as the basic assumptions underlying Western views on privacy. Capurro then addresses some Japanese concepts, including: " public and private spaces (including in cyberspace and mass media), guilt, dignity, and freedom of speech from both perspectives

Carbo, Toni & Smith, Martha M. (2008). Global information ethics: Intercultural perspectives on past and future Research. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology.  59(7), 1111-1183.

This special Perspectives section includes an introductory overview by the editors, Global information ethics: Intercultural perspectives on past and future research and seven articles, two of which (Britz and Capurro) are included in this bibliography. The other five articles address: information naïveté (Robert Brody), archival ethics: the truth of the matter (Richard J. Cox), the principle of distribution (G.M. Reed and J.W. Sanders), and the justification of intellectual property (Kenneth Einar Himma). An extensive bibliography by the authors and David Perrotta and Jeffrey Neher is also included.

Cox, Richard J. (2007). Ethics, accountability, and recordkeeping in a dangerous world. London: Facet.

This collection of essays addresses several issues and challenges for archivists and records managers, including some practical ones and more difficult ones related to recordkeeping and public policy. Cox raises key questions related to information ethics and policies as well as societal priorities, including: intellectual freedom and censorship; protection and use of intellectual property; truth and recordkeeping; and government control of records and information. He also challenges archivists and records managers to think more deeply about their own integrity, including adequacy of codes of ethics, and to reflect on the notion of whistle-blowing and the implications of these issues and challenges for each individual. 

Harris, Verne.  (2007). Archives and justice: A South African Perspective. Chicago, IL: The Society of American Archivists.

Harris, a South African archivist who was project manager for the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, compiled this collection of writings from his post-1994 articles, conference presentations, and other works. The collection addresses the role of archivists and the call of justice, arguing that archivists are record-makers and should be "active participants in the dynamics of power relations." (p. 241).  He argues for the importance of  record, which he describes as: ". . . the bearer of mystery. . . . Unless archivists. . . cherish and tend this mystery, they risk reducing themselves to arid (and dispensable) functionaries. Worse, they risk becoming arachons, hostile to contestation and comfortable in the exercise of power." (p. 122).

Himma, Kenneth & Tavani, Herman T. (2008). The handbook of Information and computer ethics.  Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley.    

This handbook provides an overview of key issues in information and computer ethics, including: foundational issues and methodological frameworks; intellectual property, privacy, anonymity, and security; issues related to the information professions; responsibility and regulatory challenges; access and equity issues. Each chapter reviews the positions and arguments on the topic, and provides a bibliography

Mathiesen, Kay. (2012). The human right to internet access: A philosophical defense. International Review of Information Ethics. 18(December), 9-22.

Mathiesen defends the UN position that access to the Internet is a human right, rejecting Cerf's rejection of this right and arguing that the Internet enables the right to communicate. She contends that this right must be understood as part of a larger system of human rights, and, even though the Internet can be used for oppression and imperialism, it can be and is used for positive communication, freedom of expression and access to information.

Woodbury, Marsha. (2012). Information integrity in Africa: Exploring information corruption issues. International Review of Information Ethics. 18(December), 1-8.

Woodbury explores briefly information integrity, arguing that reliable information enhances the values of a society. It touches on key information integrity issues of concern to Africa, including: accurate translations, access to public information, preservation, corruption and pollution of information, freedom of the press and information integrity, and emphasizes the need "to be proactive in providing access to and provision of public information to empower people to redress inequalities." (p. 7)

Other key resources:

International Center for Information Ethics (2013). What is ICIE? 

This international organization, established in 1999 by Rafael Capurro and now managed by the Center for Arts and Media Karlsruhe, provides an international cultural and intercultural platform with more than 280 members) for exchanging information about research and teaching in information ethics and news about IE activities. It organizes symposia and publishes a book series with K. Fink Verlag. Since 2004, it has published the International Review of Information Ethics.

Librarians for Human Rights. (2013). 

Librarians for Human Rights is a collaborative of librarians in North American dedicated to the realization of the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Its focus is recognizing librarians and library services that "illuminate, sustain and safeguard human rights." 

Suggestions regarding the listings for information science and technology and human rights may be sent to Toni Carbo at

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Medical Sciences

Chapman, Audrey, R. (2009). “Globalization, Human Rights, and the Social Determinants of Health.” Bioethics 23(2): 97-111.

This article reviews the potential contributions and limitations of human rights to achieving greater equity in shaping the social determinants of health.

Fink, Sheri L. (2000). “Physician groups and the war in Kosovo: Ethics, neutrality, and interventionism.” JAMA 283(9): 1200.

Promotion of human rights has become an intimate concern of many physician groups, and conflicts may emerge between loyalty to human rights and loyalty to medical principles. The efforts of Physicians for Human Rights in Kosovo are examined.

Flanagin, Annette. (2000). “Human rights in the biomedical literature: The social responsibility of medical journals.” JAMA 284(5): 618-619.

The editors of “JAMA” recognize that “The Journal” has a social responsibility to improve the total human condition and to promote the integrity of science. As a result, “JAMA’s” editors will continue to publish an annual theme issue devoted to the subjects of human rights, violence and inhumanity.

Geiger, H. J. and R. M. Cook-Deegan (1993). “The role of physicians in conflicts and humanitarian crises: Case studies from the field missions of Physicians for Human Rights, 1988 to 1993.” JAMA 270(5): 616-620.

The skills of physicians, medical and forensic scientists, and other health workers are uniquely valuable in human rights investigations and documentation, producing evidence of abuse more credible and less vulnerable to challenge than traditional methods of case reporting. Only in recent decades, however, have physicians organized specifically to meet this responsibility.

Grodin, M. A. and G. J. Annas (1996). “Legacies of Nuremberg: Medical ethics and human rights.” JAMA 276(20): 1682-1683.

The 50th anniversary of the Doctors Trial at Nuremberg Germany provides an important opportunity to reflect on its legacy to both medical ethics and human rights.

Leaning, Jennifer. (2001) “Health and human rights.” British Medical Journal 322(7300): 1435-1436.

The British Medical Association considers it important to educate its constituency in human rights issues. Ignorance of human rights permits physicians to be drawn into unacceptable practices, such as participation in the death penalty or design of inhumane weapons systems. Moreover, as millions of people suffer injury as a matter of routine oppression, the medical profession cannot just sit by.

Mann, Jonathan M. (1997). “Medicine and public health, ethics and human rights.” The Hastings Center Report 27(3): 6-13.

New relationships have been forged among medicine, public health, ethics and human rights, pressing the need for an ethics of public health and revealing the rights-related responsibilities of physicians.

Maxwell, R. S. and D. J. Pounder (1999). “The Medicine and Human Rights specials study module: A Physicians for Human Rights (UK) initiative.” Medical Teacher 21(3): 294-298.

Human rights have been much neglected in medical education. An attempt to fill this gap was made by introducing a ‘Medicine and Human Rights’ special study module into the undergraduate programme at Dundee.

Orbinski, J., C. Beyrer, and S. Singh. (2007). “Violations of human rights: health practitioners as witnesses.” The Lancet 370(9588): 698-704.

For humanitarian health-care practitioners bearing witness to violations of human dignity has become synonymous with denunciations, human rights advocacy, or lobbying for political change. With examples from the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the USA, the Rwandan genocide, and physician-led political activism in Nepal, the authors describe cases in which health practitioners act of bearing witness have had imperfect outcomes.

Sidel, V. W. (1996). “The social responsibilities of health professionals: Lessons from their role in Nazi Germany.” JAMA 276(20): 1679-1681.

The actions of health professionals in Nazi Germany are being extensively discussed during this 50th anniversary year of the Doctors Trial at Nuremberg Germany.

Wasunna, Angela Amondi. (2003). “Dual Loyalty and Human Rights: Proposed Guidelines and Institutional Mechanisms.” The Hastings Center Report 33(4): 7.

Health professionals the world over encounter conflicts of dual loyalty, in which their professional obligations to their patients are pitted against the interest of others, like the state. In certain instances, these conflicts are severe enough that if health professionals resolve them appropriately, they contribute directly to human rights violations. Wasunna discusses proposed guidelines by a group of medical ethicists, human rights experts, and health practitioners, to address these problem in the medical profession.

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AMA Declaration of Professional Responsibility: Medicine’s Social Contract with Humanity 

Physicians for Human Rights

Yvonne Donders (2011) “The right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress: in search of state obligations in relation to health ” Med Health Care and Philos (2011) 14:371–381

Nowadays, within a world that is increasingly turning to science and technology for solutions to persistent socio-economic and development problems, the human dimension of science also receives increased attention, including the human right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications. This contribution analyses the possible legal obligations of States in relation to the right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications, in particular as regards health.

Budiani-Saberi D, Columb S. (2013) “A human rights approach to Human Trafficking for Organ Removal” Med Health Care Philos. 2013 Jun 7. [Epub ahead of print]

Human trafficking for organ removal (HTOR) should not be reduced to a problem of supply and demand of organs for transplantation, a problem of organized crime and criminal justice, or a problem of voiceless, abandoned victims. Rather, HTOR is at once an egregious human rights abuse and a form of human trafficking. As such, it demands a human-rights based approach in analysis and response to this problem, placing the victim at the center of initiatives to combat this phenomenon. Such an approach requires us to consider how various measures impact or disregard victims/potential victims of HTOR and gives us tools to better advocate their interests, rights and freedoms.

Kaye J. (2012) “The tension between data sharing and the protection of privacy in genomics research” Annu Rev Genomics Hum Genet. 2012;13:415-31.

Next-generation sequencing and global data sharing challenge many of the governance mechanisms currently in place to protect the privacy of research participants. These challenges will make it more difficult to guarantee anonymity for participants, provide information to satisfy the requirements of informed consent, and ensure complete withdrawal from research when requested. To move forward, we need to improve the current governance systems for research so that they are responsive to individual privacy concerns but can also be effective at a global level. We need to develop a system of e-governance that can complement existing governance systems but that places greater reliance on the use of technology to ensure compliance with ethical and legal requirements. These new governance structures must be able to address the concerns of research participants while at the same time ensuring effective data sharing that promotes public trust in genomics research.

Suggestions regarding the listings for medicine and human rights may be sent to Liljana Stevceva at

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Physicists have been actively involved in the defense of Human Rights of colleague physicists, and scientists in general, around the world for a long time. What follows is a list of talks, articles and informed remembrances on Physics and Human Rights by physicist-activists that are available online. The selection is not exhaustive, on the contrary it just reflects our personal knowledge of recent publications; nevertheless they are in our view representative of the indefatigable work of a large number of scientists affirming Human Rights and in defense of persecuted  or at risk colleagues throughout the world. 

Physics and Human Rights: Reflections on the past and the present” Joel L. Lebowitz, Physikalische Blatter, Vol. 56, issue 7-8, pages 51-54, July/August 2000.

Based loosely on the Max von Laue lecture given at the German Physical Society's annual meeting in Dresden, 03/2000. This article focus on the moral and social responsibilities of scientists then -Nazi period in Germany- and now. Max von Laue's principled moral response at the time, distinguished him from many of his contemporaries scientists.

"APS Involvement in the Defense of Human Rights" Edward Gerjuoy, Physics and Society, Vol. 34 No. 3, July 2005, pp. 3-6.

The objective of this paper is to describe the history of the American Physical Society's (APS) involvement in the defense of human rights and to acquaint the reader with some of the many actions taken by the Committee on International Freedom of Scientists (CIFS) to alleviate the human rights violation scientists worldwide.

Einstein, Social Responsibility of Physicists and Human Rights in China” Fang Li-Zhi Physics and Society, Vol. 34 No. 3, July 2005, pp. 7-9.

Einstein gained Chinese admiration not only because of his scientific achievements, but also because of his constant concern about the cases of injustice, suppression, and human rights abuses in China. The strong sense of social responsibility shown by Einstein is an illustrious role model for Chinese intellectuals, especially for physicists, who advocate the universal principle of human rights.

The Conscience of Science: Human Rights and Human Welfare” Irving Lerch, Andrew M. Sessler: The Symposium, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, March 15, 2003.

Event timeline: history, human rights; issues in Science and human rights; APS programs: letter campaigns. The role of Science in collecting and evaluating evidence of human rights abuses. Truth and reconciliation commissions. Tracking the truth and culprits with chemistry, molecular biology, physical anthropology, physics and mathematics.

American Physical Society, Human Rights website

The AAAS Science and Human Rights Coalition” Juan Gallardo and Michele Irwin, Newsletter of the APS Forum on International Physics, May 2013.

An overview and history of the AAAS Science and Human Rights Coalition and the American Physical Society’s involvement.

Human Rights Issues in Physics” Herman Winick Newsletter of the APS Forum on International Physics, February 2012.

“CIFS Briefs: Highlighting the Connection Between Human Rights and Science for the Physics Community” APS News 

Andrei Sakharov: Soviet Physics, Nuclear Weapons, and Human Rights” American Institute of Physics (AIP) Center for History of Physics.

 “Human Rights and International Activities” Andrew M. Sessler, Herman Winick Celebration, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, October 2, 2012.

Shattering the Lavender Ceiling: Sexual Minorities in Physics,” Michael Ramsey-Musolf, American Physical Society March Meeting, February 28, 2012. 

Science Policy, Politics and Human Rights” Presented by Kurt Gottfried & Sheila Jasanoff December 12, 2011.

"Human Rights of Scientists - A Matter of Global Concern" Robert French, APS News, Vol. 27 No. 2, February 2018.

Suggestions regarding the listings for physics and human rights may be sent to Michele Irwin at or to Juan Gallardo at

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Political Science

Landman, Todd. (2006). Studying Human Rights. New York: Routledge.

There is now a recognized need for systematic social scientific research and analysis to expand knowledge about the promotion and protection of human rights. Human rights practices provide evidentiary base upon which social scientific analysis can take place. This book draws from the extant international law of human rights.

Mitchell, Neil J and James M. McCormick. (1988). “Economic and Political Explanations of Human Rights Violations.” World Politics 40: 476-498.

In international comparisons of countries authors find that countries that are economically better off are more likely to adhere to human rights standards.

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The entries in orthopsychiatry reflect the breadth of the discipline. Orthopsychiatry is concerned with mental health and social justice, with an emphasis on the relationships and social systems that promote positive development (e.g., family, school, and community contexts). The entries highlight the importance of meaningful participation in community life as a cornerstone of human rights. They also reflect orthopsychiatry's historic focus on vulnerable populations, especially children and adolescents, who may require extra protection in order to access their rights. The authors are previous human rights award winners or fellows of the American Orthopsychiatric Association.  

Lawrence-Lightfoot, S. (2012). Respect: On witness and justice. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 82(3), 447-454. 

Lawrence-Lightfoot examines the importance of mutual respect, which creates symmetry, empathy, and curiosity, in creating authentic relationships and inclusive communities that promote rights. Historic understandings of respect based on habit or law can lead to relationships that are static, hierarchical, or constraining, whereas real respect should be grounded in individual reciprocity and engagement. 

Levesque, J. R. P. (2007). Adolescents, media, and the law: What developmental science reveals and free speech requires. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. 

Levesque synthesizes research about the effects of free media on adolescent development, with a focus on controversial topics, including: sexuality, violence, smoking, and body image. He discusses how these research findings can inform standards for the regulation of free speech to protect youth development and human rights. 

McLeigh, J. D., & Sianko, N. (2011). What should be done to promote mental health around the world? American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 81(1), 83-89. 

McLeigh and Sianko point out that few countries devote resources to the promotion of mental health, and people with mental disorders are especially vulnerable to serious human rights abuses. The authors discuss directions for policy that would promote the right to dignity for all people, including the availability, accessibility, and acceptability of mental health services. 

Melton, G. B. (2002). Democratization and children’s lives. In N. H. Kaufman & I. Rizzini (Eds.), Globalization and children: Exploring potentials for enhancing opportunities in the lives of children and youth. New York, NY: Kluwer Academic/Plenum. 

Melton explores interdisciplinary perspectives on global changes that affect the everyday lives of children. Historically, children have been excluded from research about globalization and democratization, and recommendations for interventions and policies that would promote child well-being are discussed. 

Melton, G. B. (2010). It’s all about relationships! The psychology of human rights. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 80(2), 161-169. 

Melton discusses universality in international human rights law, and points out that neither immaturity nor disability should diminish respect for children. He argues that individual rights lack meaning without social context, and special care should be taken to protect family and community relationships, which nurture and protect children and provide a foundation for personality and dignity. To preserve and enhance personal autonomy, all children, including those with disabilities, should be given opportunities for full and effective participation in community life. 

Torney-Purta, J., & Barber, C. (2011). Fostering young people’s support for participatory human rights through their developmental niches. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 81(4), 437-481.

Torney-Purta and Barber focus on the cross-national connections between youth civic engagement and the recognition of international human rights. They examine the ways in which everyday settings, such as school and neighborhood niches, foster support for participatory human rights among young people. The authors argue that research on social justice attitudes among adolescents is a valuable form of social action, which can influence policies and programs that support human rights. 

Suggestions regarding the listings for psychiatry/orthopsychiatry and human rights may be sent to Liepa Boberiene at or to Brad Hornback at

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The entries in psychology mainly reflect three concerns. First, entries were selected on the psychology of support for human rights (e.g. psychological ethnocentrism and human rights support). Second, entries on major features in human psychology that can contribute to human rights abuses (e.g. psychic numbing, dehumanization) are included. Third, entries were selected on the psychology of recovery from major violations of human rights (e.g., therapy for torture survivors, reconciliation within societies following war, genocide, or other massive human rights abuses).

American Psychological Association website on human rights

Bell, S. R., Clay, K. C., & Murdie, A. (2019). Join the chorus, avoid the spotlight: The effect of neighborhood and social dynamics on human rights organization shaming. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 63(1), 167-193.

Human rights organizations (HRO) with fewer resources and are located in states that show less respect for human rights sometimes overlook human rights abuses. A cross-national time series research design found that more abusive states can thus avoid HRO attention by ratifying human rights treaties.

Carriere, K. R., Hendricks, M. J., & Moghaddam, F. M. (2019). Sophisticated but scared: The effects of political sophistication, right‐wing authoritarianism, and threat on civil liberty restrictions. Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy (ASAP).

This examines how right-wing authoritarianism and political sophistication moderate the relationship between threat and support for civil liberties. Participants responded to scenarios pertaining to restrictions on civil liberties in terms of being wiretapped and torturing suspected terrorists. Individuals low on right‐wing authoritarianism became more like their high right‐wing authoritarian peers in the face of threat. Moreover, individuals who were more sophisticated about political issues were less supportive of restrictions on civil liberties, but only when threat was low.

Doise, Willem; Dario Spini, and Alain Clemence. (1999). “Human rights studied as social representations in a cross-national context,” European Journal of Social Psychology 29: 1-29.

A questionnaire study using the 30 Articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was conducted in 35 countries. The existence of a shared meaning system concerning the 30 articles in different countries was demonstrated. Individual attitudes toward the whole set of rights were proven to be highly consistent.

Drolet, C. E., Hafer, C. L., & Heuer, L. (2016). The role of perceived deservingness in the toleration of human rights violations. Social Justice Research, 29(4), 429-455.

Two studies examined how individual perception of deserved justice may result in toleration of human rights violations. Individuals were presented with a case that presented a fictitious target’s past behavior and deservingness. Severe treatment was more tolerated when the target performed morally reprehensible behavior. Differences in the degree to which individuals support for the right to humane treatment did not change these results.

Finkel, N. J. & Moghaddam, F M. (2005).  The psychology of rights and duties: Empirical contributions and normative commentaries.  Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.

This collection contains empirical and conceptual contributions from international psychologists, aiming to advance our understanding of human rights and duties.  It includes chapters on measuring human rights attitudes, cross-cultural comparisons, developmental perspectives, and philosophical explorations, as well as legal perspectives and normative commentaries.

Haslam, N. (2006). Dehumanization: an integrative review. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 10, 252-264.

The author provides a readable review of research on “dehumanization,” the tendency to deny the full humanness of others, particularly of outgroups. Dehumanization is a basic source of the willingness to abuse others’ human rights. 

McFarlane, C. A. & Kaplan, I.  (2012). Evidence-based psychological interventions for adult survivors of torture and trauma: A 30-year review. Transcultural Psychiatry, 49, 539-567.

The authors provide a comprehensive review of all forty identified scientific studies of the effects of psychological therapies for survivors of torture and trauma (e.g., refugees from ethnic violence). Victims were diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and other disorders. While “most studies (90%) demonstrated significant improvements on at least one outcome indicator,” with effect sizes “moderate to large,” several limitations of the studies are also discussed.

McFarland, S, Brown, D., & Webb, M. (2013). “Identification with All Humanity” as a Moral Concept and Psychological Construct. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 22, 194-198.

This paper summarizes research on “identification with all humanity,” the belief that, as Gandhi said, “All humanity is one undivided and indivisible family.” The paper reports that this belief is a major psychological root of concern for human rights.

McFarland, S.  (2010). Personality and support for universal human rights: A review and test of a structural model. Journal of Personality, 78, 1735-1763. 

The major personality factors that influence support for human rights either negatively (e.g., ethnocentrism, the authoritarian personality, the social dominance orientation) or positively (e.g., “identification with all humanity,” dispositional empathy, principled moral reasoning) are reviewed. The structural relations between these predictors are tested for two samples.

Opotow, S. (2015). Historicizing injustice: The Museum of Memory and Human Rights, Santiago, Chile. Journal of Social Issues, 71(2), 229-243.

The Museum of Memory and Human Rights in Chile is the collective work of human rights groups and victims’ communities which commemorates victims of mass detentions, disappearances, and human rights violations during the Pinochet dictatorship (1973–1990). This article considers the Museum in terms of scope of justice and moral exclusion. The Museum provides a site of clashing viewpoints, surfacing narratives and counternarratives about the past and airing tensions and haunting questions can offer insight into social issues, policies, and conflicts that persist today.

Pillay, Navi (2012, July). Psychology Serving Humanity. Keynote address at the 30th International Congress of Psychology, Capetown. 

From her perspective as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Pillay discusses ways that psychology can advance human rights.  Psychology and human rights are naturally linked, as both have the aim of advancing human wellbeing. Psychologists can advance human rights by helping prevent human rights abuses, treating victims of abuse, combatting racism and xenophobia, exploring links between psychological health and human rights, and respecting human rights in their professional practice.

Prentice, D.  (2012). The psychology of norms and the promotion of human rights.  In R. Goodman, D. Jinks, & A. K. Woods (Eds.), Understanding social action, promoting human rights. New York: Oxford University Press.

Prentice draws on the psychology of social norms to suggest ways to reduce human rights abuses and to advance human rights generally. Research is reviewed on the perception and misperception of social norms, ways in which undesirable norms (e.g., female genital mutilation) may be weakened and desirable ones (e.g. nondiscrimination) strengthened.  Speculations are offered on the relationship between international human rights norms and the policies of governments.  

Rosenzweig, M. R. (1988). Psychology and United Nations human rights efforts. American Psychologist, 2, 79-86.

The author reviews links between human rights and the American Psychological Association (APA). The author summarizes, in turn, the development of human rights from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to the late-1980s, eight specific activities the APA has taken to promote human rights, statements in international human rights instruments that are particularly relevant for psychology, and further actions APA could take to fulfill its 1987 resolution on human rights, which declared that "the discipline of psychology, and the academic and professional activities of psychologists, are relevant for securing and maintaining human rights". 

Slovic, P., Västfjäll, D., & Gregory, R. (2013) Informing decisions to prevent genocide.  SAIS Review, 32, 33-48.

This paper describes the psychological processes by which “psychic numbing” leads to the devaluation of human lives when many lives are at stake, and how these processes can lead both the public and political leaders to neglect genocide and other forms of mass suffering.  Decision analysis processes are proposed to help overcome this psychic numbing. 

Slovic, P., Zionts, D., Woods, A.K., Goodman, R., & Jinks, D. (2013). Psychic numbing and mass atrocity. In Eldar Shafir (Ed). The Behavioral Foundations of Public Policy. Princeton, NJ., Princeton University Press.

In this further consideration of psychic numbing (to the article cited above), several processes are proposed (e.g., pre-commitment and early warning strategies, revised indicators of human rights violations, etc.) that can help international institutions prevent psychic numbing’s tragic consequences. 

Staub, E. (2011). Overcoming evil: Genocide, violent conflict, and terrorism. New York: Oxford University Press.

Overcoming Evil offers a comprehensive statement of Ervin Staub’s work on genocide, mass killing, entrenched violent conflict, and terrorism. Staub deduces lessons from real-world examples (the Holocaust, Rwanda, Northern Ireland, etc.), while also extrapolating from relevant psychological research. The first of section reviews the complex cultural, sociological and psychological factors that lead to evil (e.g., difficult life conditions, totalistic ideologies, devaluation of out-groups, the silence of bystanders). The second discusses the prevention of evil and processes of reconciliation that must follow mass violence. Staub proposes steps that can be taken to prevent this violence from erupting (e.g., training leaders to recognize the signs of danger, the involvement of the international community).  Reconciliation requires establishing justice, healing deep psychological wounds, and developing a shared history, superordinate identity and constructive vision of the future.

Staub, E. (2006). Reconciliation after genocide, mass killing, or intractable conflict: Understanding the roots of violence, psychological recovery, and steps toward a general theory. Political Psychology, 27, 867-894.

Reconciliation following mass violence is essential to prevent the later resumption of violence, which commonly occurs. Based on his own work in Rwanda following its 1994 genocide (including controlled group research), Staub presents an overview of processes that are essential to reconciliation. These processes include both “top down” efforts (e.g., the actions of political leaders and mass media) and “bottom up” approaches (e.g., approaches to healing the trauma experienced by both survivors and perpetrators, learning to “humanize the other,” promoting productive intergroup contact, etc.). 

Velez, G. (2016). Children's human rights: Psychological assumptions in comments on the Convention of the Rights of the Child and a phenomenological critique. Psychology & Society, 8(2), 95-118.

This article critiques general comments from the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), identifying three prevalent but incomplete themes that emerged in documents: the internal development of the individual child is separable from social context, environmental risk equates to vulnerability, and human development is a universal and linear process. This article brings together positioning theory and PVEST to argue a more nuanced understanding of the interaction between the child and the environment that could help policy makers and programs address the heterogeneity, cultural background, and perspective of children.

Viki, G. T., Osgood, D., & Phillips, S (2013). Dehumanization and self-reported proclivity to torture prisoners of war. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 40, 725-725.

Continuing research on dehumanization of outgroups, this study found that a willingness to torture members of an outgroup (Muslims in this study) was a function of the interaction between perceived threat of the outgroup and the decree to which the outgroup was rated as less human than the ingroup (Christians).

Von Stein, J. (2018). Exploring the universe of UN human rights agreements. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 62(4), 871-899.

International human rights law is remarkably diverse, but the existing literature does not reflect this diversity. The author argues that we need to look to all agreements in the UN Human Rights system and presents a database that enables researchers to do so. DHRA opens up a number of opportunities for future research. More sophistical analysissuch as network analysis helps us understand how countries make treaty participation decisions based on their ties to other countries. Human rights agreements allow researchers to identify human rights norm emergence, acceptance, and where rights struggle to be adapted into law. Cross-treaty comparisons of compliance can facilitate analysis of treaty effectiveness.

Ward, Tony. (2008). “Human rights and Forensic Psychology,” Legal and Criminological Psychology 13: 209-218.

Explores the core values associated with human rights and suggest that one of their primary functions is to protect the internal and external conditions of individuals’ agency and their pursuit of better lives. This is relevant for therapeutic jurisprudence, and the rights of detained persons.

Suggestions regarding the listings for psychology and human right may be sent to Sam McFarland at

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Public Health

According to the American Public Health Association (APHA), public health is the practice of preventing disease and promoting good health within groups of people, from small communities to entire nation-states. As a discipline, public health research has long identified direct relationships between class, race, gender and the social injustice, inequality, and health inequity experienced by certain groups to produce disproportionate adverse health outcomes.  Although the language of human rights is relatively new to public health, researchers, practitioners, health advocates and health care providers are increasingly turning to human rights as a framework to improve public health and address contextual factors. As public health is a broad field, the intersection of public health and human rights is multifaceted and diverse. Topics include the rights of persons with disabilities; the rights and responsibilities of drug users and ethical considerations for dignified addiction treatment;  improving maternal and child health through advancements in women’s rights; the effects of violence; access to affordable and appropriate health care and treatment; health disparities between different population groups; health during war and conflict; the health of internally displaced persons and refugees; and recognition of social and structural forces that impact the health of individuals and groups. 

Selected Journal Articles: 

Braveman, Paula. 2010. “Social Conditions, Health Equity, and Human Rights.” Health and Human Rights: An International Journal, 12(2). 

The tenets of health equity and human rights are explored with an emphasis on how social conditions influence health and health inequities. The indivisibility of human rights, principles of non-discrimination, human rights laws and instruments are suggested tools for building consensus and strengthening health equity through human rights.

Braveman, Paula and Sofia Gruskin. 2003. “Poverty, Equity, Human Rights, and Health”. Bulletin of World Health Organization. 81(7): 539-545.   

This important article details the reciprocal relationship between poverty, equity, and health outcomes. Human rights principles frame five general suggestions through with health institutions can address poverty and health.

Gable, Lance. 2011. “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Public Health, and the Elusive Target of Human Rights.” Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics. 39(3): 340-354. 

The author begins with a review of health reform efforts in the USA and outlines the failure of the ACA to realize the right to health in the US. Specific initiatives that might be leveraged to maximize the public health potential of the Act are discussed. 

Farmer, Paul. 1999. “Pathologies of Power: Rethinking Health and Human Rights.” American Journal of Public Health. 89(10): 1486-1496. 

This seminal article draws on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to assert the importance of understanding how state power and structural violence compromise the human right to health. It concludes with six suggestions to advance the health and human rights agenda

Forman, Lisa, Gorik Ooms, Audrey Chapman, Eric Friedman, Attiya Waris, Everaldo Lamprea and Moses Mulumba. 2013. “What Could a Strengthened Right to Health Bring to the Post-2015 Health Development Agenda?: Interrogating the Role of the Minimum Core Concept in Advancing Essential Global Health Needs.” BMC International Health and Human Rights, 13(48). 

This research discusses the progressive realization of human rights to the right to health and the ways in which an international human right to health can guide the post-Millennium Development Goals agenda in 2015 and beyond

Gruskin, Sofia, Dina Bogecho, and Laura Ferguson. 2010. “Rights-based Approaches’ to Health Policies and Programs: Articulations, Ambiguities, and Assessment”. Journal of Public Health Policy. 31: 129-145. 

The authors review academic literature and organizational statements to assess rights-based approaches to health and identify common rights principles related to health. They also define rights-based approaches and review definitional challenges

Holmes, Joshua. 2012. “A Human Rights-based Approach to HIV Health Care”. HIV Clinician24(3): 5-7. 

Persons with HIV/AIDS represent a vulnerable population that often experience human rights violations. The author discusses stigma, discrimination faced by these individuals and makes suggestions for ways in which health care workers can respect and promote human rights in their everyday practices.

Navarro, Vicente. 2009. “What We Mean by Social Determinants of Health”. International Journal of Health Services. 39(3): 423-441. 

Originally given as the inaugural speech to the Eighth European Conference of the International Union of Health Promotion and Education, this text offers a critique of neoliberal policies embraced by international organizations, such as the WHO and IMF. Using data from different European countries, Navarro highlights the importance of class, race, and gender-based power relations that, in turn, are shaped by neoliberal policies and supporting ideologies that produce inequalities that affect individual and population-level health. 

Palmer, Alexis; Jocelyn Tomkinson, Charlene Phung, Nathan Ford, Michel Joffres, Kimberly Fernandes, Leilei Zeng, Viviane Lima, Julio Montaner, Gordon Guyatt, Edward Mills. 2009. “Does Ratification of Human-Rights Treaties have Effects on Population Health?The Lancet. 373(9679): 1987-1992. 

The authors review health and social indicators from 170 countries to assess relationships between ratification of human rights treaties and health improvement. Data shows that ratification of treaties alone is not a good indicator of the right to health. Suggestions for strengthening this relationships are included

Singh, Jerome, Michelle Govender, and Edward Mills. 2007. “Do Human Rights Matter to Health?The Lancet, 370(9586): 521-527. 

The authors use case studies from India and South Africa to demonstrate how human rights instruments and litigation can help enforce the rights to health and improve public health. 

Tarantola, Daniel and Sofia Gruskin. 2008. “Human Rights Approach to Public Health Policy.” International Encyclopedia of Public Health, 477-486. 

This article reviews the basic premises of health and human rights and suggests how this framework can be applied to public health policy. Summary definitions of human rights and various mechanisms and instruments are included


Beyrer, Chris, H.F. Pizer, Eds. 2007. Public Health and Human Rights: Evidence-based Approaches. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press.  

Public health is adversely affected by human rights violations of all types. This book is divided into three parts: case studies, methods for documenting human rights violations and public health crises, and policy. Contributors present information from a variety of nations, to include Russia, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, and Brazil. Research on human rights and HIV/AIDS, war and conflict, and sexual violence are highlighted.    

Donohoe, Martin, Ed. (2012). Public Health and Social Justice. Jossey-Bass. 

This book is a multidisciplinary, diverse collection of 40 writings on various issues and topics related to human rights and health, to include discussions on poverty, healthcare delivery, women’s health, environmental health, war and violence, and corporate influence on public health.  Highlights include a section on activism and education strategies to motivate actors and agencies towards social justice.

Krieger, Nancy. 2011. Epidemiology and the People’s Health: Theory and Context. Oxford University Press. 

Krieger’s ecosocial theory of disease focuses on the role of structural, social, contextual and systemic factors embodied by individuals and which affect population level health. In her latest book, she details why theory matters in epidemiological research, the history of epidemiology, and how social justice can improve public health.   

Levy, Barry and Victor Sidel, Eds. (2013). Social Injustice and Public Health, 2nd Edition. USA, Oxford University Press.  

The latest edition of this edited volume includes an overview of social justice principles and public health; chapters on social injustice and its effects on the health of specific population groups; and the intersection of social justice and key aspects of public health, such as health care delivery; and a call to action that promotes human rights and social justice advocacy for improving public health.  

Zuniga, Jose, Stephen Marks, Lawrence Gostin, Eds. 2013. Advancing the Human Right to Health. USA, Oxford University Press. 

This book includes country-specific case studies to provide context for the right to health. Thematic sections review the right to health, discuss the right to health in action, and assess challenges and opportunities to realize the right to health

Gill, Michael and Cathy Schuland-Vials, Eds. 2014. Disability, Human Rights and the Limits of Humanitarianism. Ashgate Publishing Co. 

This multidisciplinary volume discusses the historical and current discrimination and human rights violations faced by persons with disabilities. Contributions include discussions on racial disparities in special education placements, the intersection of disability with other identity variables such as gender and sexuality; the exploitation of disabled bodies to generate resources for humanitarian projects; and suggestions for how a human rights framework can promote inclusivity and better health outcomes. 

Selected Non-Governmental Organization and Agency Reports:

Amnesty International. 2010. Deadly Delivery: The Maternal Health Crisis in the USA.  London, UK: Amnesty International Secretariat. 

Women in the USA face a higher lifetime risk of dying in pregnancy, childbirth, or during the postpartum period than women in 49 other countries. Preventable maternal mortality is an under recognized public health and social problem that represents human rights violations for the decedent and her family. In this report, Amnesty International shares the results of over 100 interviews and focus mothers with mothers, families, and health care practitioners. The discussion also includes information on US health policies and makes recommendations to improve women’s health using a human rights framework.

CERD Working Group on Health and Environmental Health. 2008. Unequal Health in the United States. Report to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. 

This is a joint report, submitted and supported by over 30 organizations and individuals. The report begins with an overview of the US government’s failure to enforce its obligations under CERD. Sections also include the extent of racial health disparities in the US; the causes; the role of government policies in perpetuating these disparities; the adequacy of government response; and key actions needed to address health disparities

Chan, Margaret, Navanethem Pillay, and William Swing. 2013. International Migration, Health and Human Rights. Geneva, Switzerland: International Organization for Migration 

More than 214 million people live outside of their country of origin, many of whom were forced out due to reasons such as war, political persecution, poverty, degradation, or natural disasters. Divided into 3 primary sections, the report details the scope and trends in international migrations; migrants and the right to health; and health challenges faced by migrant populations. Considerations for challenges faced by the receiving communities are also discussed.  

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights; and The World Health Organization. 2008. The Right to Health, Fact Sheet No. 31. Geneva, Switzerland. 

In recent years, the international community has increasingly recognized the right to health as a crucial component of well-being. This factsheet summarizes what the right to health means; discusses how the right to health can benefit special populations or vulnerable groups; the responsibilities and obligations of states in the promotion and protection of the right to health; and means of assessment and holding states accountable

See also annotated bibliographies: Medical Sciences, Medicine, Psychiatry/Orthopsychiatry, Psychology, Right to Food, Right to Health, Right to Housing, Right to Water  

Suggestions regarding listings for Public Health and Human Rights may be sent to Jennifer Bronson at Jennifer Bronson at 

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Social Sciences

Goodman, Ryan, Jinks, Derek & Woods, Andrew K.  (Eds.) (2012). Understanding social action, promoting human rights. New York: Oxford University Press.

Scholars from various social sciences and law discuss how recent empirical research across the social sciences might be used to promote human rights.  Impediments to applying this research are discussed, as are possible misapplications that might impede rather than advance human rights.

Landman, Todd. (2006). Studying Human Rights. New York: Routledge.

Landman offers a systematic synthesis of social scientific research and analysis to expand knowledge about the promotion and protection of human rights. Human rights practices provide evidentiary base upon which social scientific analysis can take place. Landman draws examples from the extant international law of human rights.

Suggestions regarding the listings for social science and human rights may be sent to Sam McFarland at or to Bruce Friesen at

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Social Science Methodology

Asher, Jana, David Banks and Fritz J. Schueren, editors. (2007). Statistical Methods for Human Rights. Springer.

Statistics is central to the modern perspective on human rights. It allows researchers to measure the effect of health care policies, the penetration of educational opportunity, and progress towards gender equality. Non-governmental organizations need statistics to build cases, conduct surveys, and target their efforts. This book describes the statistics that underlie the social science research in human rights and is intended as an introduction to applied human rights research.

Ball, Patrick. (1996). Who Did What to Whom? Planning and Implementing a Large Scale Human Rights Data Project. Washington, DC: AAAS.

Ball describes how to design and develop information systems for human rights projects. He presents the criteria involved in data collection, data processing, database design, analytic reports, and the kinds of personnel and technology necessary.

Ball, Patrick, Herbert F. Spirer, and Louise Spirer, editors. (2000). Making the Case: Investigating Large Scale Human Rights Violations Using Information Systems and Data Analysis. Washington, DC: AAAS.

The contributors to this volume explain how information systems and data analysis were developed to assist human rights commissions in El Salvador, Haiti, and South Africa. There is particular focus on technical assistance provided to the Guatemalan Commission for Historical Clarification.

Grossman, W. M. (2003). “Fear and grokking on the war crimes trail.” New Scientist 177: 48.

Presents an interview with Patrick Ball, then deputy director of the AAAS Science and Human Rights Program. Ball spent 12 years in designing software that turns information on human rights abuses into databases that can be used worldwide.

Sriram, Chandra Lekha, John C. King, Julie A. Mertus, Olga Martin-Ortega, and Johanna Herman, editors. (2009). Surviving Field Research: Working in Violent and Difficult Situations. Routledge.

This is a guide for researchers on the practical and ethical challenges of conducting qualitative field research into human rights abuses while working under difficult circumstances.

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Sociologists use social scientific methods to investigate collective sentiments and practices (i.e. culture), and the formation and impact of formal rules and regulations (i.e. social structure) created and maintained by groups.  A variety of qualitative and quantitative data collection techniques are used, since groups vary in size, composition, duration, and formalization.  Readings in this section illustrate the diversity of method and focus as pertaining to human rights.  The last reading, by Buroway, treats the idea of “pure” social science as a social construct, arguing instead for a public sociology that ultimately improves social life.

William T. Armaline, Davita Silfen Glasberg, and Bandana Purkayastha (Eds.).  Human Rights in Our Own Backyard: Injustice and Resistance in the United States. (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011).

With a view to introducing cutting-edge thinking on the sociology of human rights to a US audience, this collection covers the full range of human rights, from civil and political rights to economic rights to cultural rights and beyond. In addition, it contains a section on women's rights and a section on the role of resistance movements in generating new demands for human rights. 

Blau, Judith and Mark Frezzo (eds.) 2011. Sociology and Human Rights: A Bill of Rights for the Twenty-First Century. Sage.  

This volume uses sociological theories and methods to illuminate debates on and struggles over human rights in the contemporary world. In exploring the paradoxical status of the United States as a both a leader and an outlier in human rights, the book proposes a renovation of the Constitution in light of changing international norms on human rights. Covering a range of topics--including civil and political rights, economic and social rights, cultural rights, environmental rights, citizenship, the rights of immigrants, the rights of vulnerable persons, children's rights, and the globalization of human rights--this anthology introduces readers to the major issues in the field of human rights. 

Brunsma, David, Keri Iyall Smith, Brian Gran (eds.).  (2012). Handbook of Sociology and Human Rights.  Paradigm.

The Handbook contains dozens of chapters which analyze the implications of a human rights framework on both theory and method in virtually every major sub-discipline of Sociology.  Insightful and comprehensive in scope.  Chapter authors are contemporary leaders in their field.

Brunsma, David, Keri Iyall Smith, Mark Frezzo (eds.).  2012.  Special Issue of Societies Without Borders:  Human Rights and the Social Sciences.  Societies Without Borders 7:4.  

Contributors to the special collection reflect upon the development and meaning of social sciences without borders, with a special emphasis on Sociology.  Authors consider how human rights-oriented social scientists reconcile their concern for scientific rigor with their commitment to changing the world.  The article by Friesen, Frezzo, and Gran analyzes activities in the AAAS Science and Human Rights Coalition.

Majidi, M., Dehsiri, M.  (2009).  The Right of All Nations to Access Science, New Technologies and Sustainable Development.  International Social Science Journal, 6:197/198, p 455-465. 

The authors reflect on the right of developing countries to science and technology, and advocate for approaches that make micro-macro linkages and ensure individual and national rights to science, technology, and sustainable development.

Burawoy, Michael.  (2005). Third Wave Sociology and the End of Pure Science.  American Sociologist, 36:3/4, p152-165.  

Responding to criticisms of “public sociology,” Burawoy suggests that the creation of a “pure” sociology (exemplified by the Strong Program in Professional Sociology) was a response to the early development of American sociology.  This response, Burawoy suggests, has since been transcended by a critical sociology that challenges unconstrained market expansion.  Though not mentioned explicitly by Burawoy, the sociology of human rights is embedded in public sociology.

Suggestions regarding the listings for sociology and human rights may be sent to Bruce Friesen at  

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American Statistical Society Committee on Scientific Freedom and Human Rights

Asher, “Collecting Data in Challenging Settings,” Chance 23, no. 2.

This is a relatively non-technical report of conducting human rights surveys in countries at risk, describing both physical and statistical obstacles.

Asher, Banks and Scheuren, eds., Statistical Methods for Human Rights, Springer, 2007.

This is a collection of articles on the applications of statistics to human rights work.  Some are completely accessible to a lay person while others are more technical.  They cover genocide, disappearances, war casualties, refugees, and the use of statistics in the International Criminal Court and measuring progress toward the Millennium Development Goals.

Ball and Asher, “Statistics and Slobodan,” Chance 15, 17-24 (2002).

This a more detailed and up-to-date report on statistics in the ICC, written largely in lay terms.

Ball, Scheuren, Seltzer and Spirer, “Multiple or N-system estimates of the number of political killings in Guatemala,” ASA Proceedings in Social Statistics, 156-160 (1999).

The title describes this work, but not for the faint-of-statistics heart.

Burnham, Lafta, Doocy and Roberts, “Mortality after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: a Cross-sectional Cluster Sample Survey,” The Lancet 368, 1421-1428 (2006).

This is the article that created enormous controversy because of the methodology and the very high mortality estimates it reports.  The details are technical, but the gist of the work is accessible to non-statisticians.  It represents a follow-up to the previous Lancet article listed below.

Daponte, Kadane, and Wolfson, “Bayesian Demography: Projecting the Iraqi Kurdish Population,” Journal of the American Statistical Association 92, 1256-1267 (1997).

This is interesting because of its use of Bayesian techniques in a difficult population estimate exercise.  It is quite technical, but does give a good description of just way the problem is so difficult.

Evans, Scott, ed., Special Issue of Chance magazine on Statistics and Human Rights, 31:1 (February 2018).

Human rights is the theme of this special issue of CHANCE. Five articles and an editorial discuss various aspects of human rights, their quantification, and the value that good data and sound research can provide.

Guzmán, “Speaking Stats to Justice: Expert Testimony in a Guatemalan Human Rights Trial Based on Statistical Sampling,” Chance, September 2011.

This is a relatively non-technical description of how sampling was used to provide evidence in the trial of human rights violators.

Lum, Price, Guberck and Ball, “Measuring Elusive Populations with Bayesian Model Averaging for Multiple Systems Estimation:  A Case Study on Lethal Violations in Casanare, 1998-2007,” Statistics, Politics, and Policy, 1, Article 2, 2010.

This is a highly technical but absorbing study of capturing important human rights information.

Roberts, Lafta, Garfield, Khudhairi, and Burnham, “”Mortality before and after the 2003 Invasion of Iraq:  Cluster Sample Survey,” The Lancet 364, 1857-1864 (2004).

This is the first of two articles on mortality relating to the Iraq war.  The survey here was done immediately after the invasion when conditions in Iraq were relatively amenable to such work.    

Verpoorten, “The Death Toll of the Rwandan Genocide:  a Detailed Analysis for Gikongoro Province,” Population (English edition) 60, 331-368 (2005).

This study is relatively non-technical; it addresses unsettled issues about the extent and character of the genocide. 

Suggestions regarding the listings for statistics and human rights may be sent to Ali Arab at

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