Committee for Human Rights

Recommendations for Actions on Specific Cases

This document is a revision of a memo originally prepared for a meeting of the AAA Commission on Human Rights, Washington, DC, April 29-May 1, 1993; it was revised and submitted as Appendix F of the 1995 Operating Guidelines proposal of the Commission for Human Rights. Authored by Terry Turner, it constitutes an inventory of ways in which the Committee for Human Rights could choose to deal with specific cases of human rights abuse.

  1. The Committee for Human Rights of the Association may initiate investigation of, and/or action relating to, cases of possible violation of rights of the kind specified in the Preamble of the Operating Document of the Committee. It may also act upon investigations or information supplied by members of the Association, or Working Groups or Task Forces formed by members of the Association (with other knowledgeable individuals where appropriate) to research particular situations of rights abuse. In certain cases, the Committee may encourage the formation of such groups to investigate or document situations beyond the special competencies of its members, or decide to recommend that the Executive Board appoint a special investigative commission to make a more thorough or more objective investigation of a situation brought to its attention by a member, Working Group or Task Force.
  2. In pursuing its investigations, the Committee for Human Rights may itself undertake, or authorize others to make on its behalf, formal requests for information about a situation of suspected rights violation from government officials, or non-governmental organizations or individuals, of the country involved, and/or from the victims of the suspected violation or their organizations, without concluding its own investigation or waiting for a final report from a Working Group, Task Force, or Special Investigative Commission.
  3. Where a violation of rights is established beyond reasonable doubt either by its own investigation or by confirmed information from knowledgeable anthropological colleagues, the Committee may, with the approval of the President, itself originate and send, or recommend that the President of the Association transmit, protests against the violation to the government, other responsible groups or individuals, and public media of the country in question.
  4. Under similar circumstances, without necessarily waiting for completion of its report or action to be taken by the Association, the Committee may itself originate and transmit, or recommend that the President of the Association transmit, messages of concern and support to the victims of the violation. Such messages might, where appropriate, take the form of informing the victims that the Committee is authorizing or undertaking a full investigation of the situation and may be recommending certain actions by the Association according to the findings of its investigation.
  5. Findings and recommendations of the Committee on specific cases, may when appropriate be circulated, in the form of letters, press releases, or full reports, to major newspapers and other important informational media; to the International Commission on Human Rights of the United Nations; to the relevant agencies of the United States government, including the Undersecretary of State for the region involved and the appropriate Congressional Committees; and where relevant and appropriate, to regional organizations such as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States.
  6. Translations or summaries in the local language of such letters, press releases, reports or summaries of the findings and recommendations of the Committee should be simultaneously circulated to the press, media, and appropriate governmental agencies of the country in which the rights violation in question has occurred, normally including the President and administrative officers responsible for enforcing legality or protecting the rights of the individual or group in question. Working Groups and Task Forces contributing reports to the Committee will normally be responsible for drafting such local-language documents themselves.
  7. The same translated documents should be transmitted to the individuals or groups whose rights are threatened or violated.
  8. The Committee's report, and attached local-language documents, should also be sent to the professional Anthropological Association, if any, of the country involved, or if no national association exists, then to appropriate academic institutions such as departments of anthropology at leading universities and/or anthropologists who are either colleagues of, or are working with, a threatened individual anthropologist, other individual person or group, as well as to non anthropologists working with the individual or group who have aided in the preparation of the Committee's report, and/or are engaged in the defense of the rights of the threatened individual or group.
  9. Efforts should be made to solicit statements from the individuals or groups whose rights have been threatened or violated for inclusion in or attachment to the Committee's report, so that the circulation of the latter may also serve as a channel for voices of threatened groups or individuals who might not otherwise have access to media.
  10. Copies of the report and recommendations may where appropriate also be circulated to US and local NGOs potentially or actually engaged in helping a threatened group to defend itself or its environment, or in defending the rights of a threatened individual anthropologist, leader or spokesperson for a cultural minority, including the Commissions on Human Rights of other national or international anthropological associations.
  11. The Association should take every opportunity to communicate the contents of the reports or findings of its Committee for Human Rights
    1. in briefings and testimony to US government agencies, leaders and Congressional committees investigating questions related to any aspect of the situation of the threatened group or individual, or responsible for policies toward the country in which the threatened group or individual is located,
    2. to international financial institutions considering loans to the government of the country, and/or
    3. to private corporations undertaking projects in the area which might materially affect the situation at issue.
    4. The Committee also may on occasion recommend that the Executive Board mandate a member of the Committee or some other knowledgeable member(s) of the Association to testify on a rights-related issue before an appropriate government investigative body.
  12. The President or other representatives of the Association may when appropriate present resolutions embodying the substance of Committee reports and findings in appropriate public contexts such as the meetings of other learned and scientific associations. These resolutions should encourage such bodies to bring pressure on the governments in question to change their policies, and express support of the threatened individuals or groups in their struggles to obtain or defend their rights.
  13. The President and Executive Board, on the recommendation of the Committee, may, if deemed appropriate, present such a resolution to the full membership of the AAA at the business meeting at an annual meeting or through the newsletter.
  14. The President and Executive Board, on the recommendation of the Committee, may also recommend appropriate action by the appropriate regional or topical anthropological division of the association (e.g., the sending of official letters of protest by the president or members).
  15. The findings, recommendations and actions of the Committee for Human Rights, or of the Association through its representatives or governing bodies consequent upon such findings, shall be published, to the extent practicable, in the Newsletter and/or other appropriate publications of the Association.
  16. Members of the Association teaching courses on the issues, groups or areas touched upon by the work of the Committee shall be encouraged to include in their courses such reports, together with further relevant information about the issues addressed by them, the consequent actions taken by the Committee and Association, their effects, and the current situation of the individual(s) or group(s) in question.

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