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The Committee works at the intersections between science and human rights to uphold and protect the freedoms that scientists should enjoy, and the responsibilities they carry, while engaging in scientific practice.

CFRS monitors individual and generic cases of scientists whose freedoms and rights are restricted as a result of carrying out their scientific research, or while acting as scientists, and provides assistance in such cases where its intervention can provide relief and support activities of other relevant actors. CFRS’s engagement in this area is based on ISC’s Statutes and underpinned by international codes and standards relevant to science and scientists. 

Project work

Case work

Potential cases typically arise through media coverage, or are brought to the Committee’s attention by ISC Members, affiliated bodies and partners. When a new case is raised, CFRS decides whether to respond with a course of action, or to monitor the matter for further developments.   

Actions are determined on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the sensitivity and severity of the situation, and the views of relevant ISC Members. Potential actions include:  

  • Letters: private or open letters may be sent by the Chair of CFRS or the ISC President to relevant ISC Members, institutions, or Heads of States.  
  • Announcements: public comments about cases may be made on social media and/or the ISC website.  
  • Statements: a public position may be adopted by the CFRS and endorsed by the ISC Governing Board.  
  • Commentaries: commentaries in the form of opinion pieces, editorials, etc. may be published by members of CFRS.   

The Chair of CFRS acts on the advice of members of the Committee. In certain circumstances, the Chair may recommend action by the ISC Governing Board or President. Where CFRS decides to act on a case, this would typically be preceded by correspondence with the relevant ISC Member(s). It is and often the case that Members also act, e.g. by issuing their own statement or publicizing the matter on social media. Information about cases may be shared with other organizations with an interest in human rights and academic freedoms. 

Privacy and confidentiality are often factors in responding to individual cases, particularly where judicial processes or imprisonment are involved. ISC’s response may not be able to be published in such cases.  

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