Committee on Human Rights of Mathematicians

Summary of Committee Charge
The AMS is committed to speaking whenever mathematicians are deprived of the opportunity to practice their profession due to violations of the freedoms enumerated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Affirmation 1 adopted by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. This Committee will assist the Society in such matters by reviewing alleged violations of human rights of mathematicians and by recommending appropriate action to the AMS. For this purpose, a mathematician is a person professionally engaged in a mathematical science (such as pure mathematics, applied mathematics, mathematical statistics, computer science, or operations research) or trained for such activity.

Full Committee Charge

Membership

If you are concerned that the human rights of a mathematician have been violated and would like to bring this to the attention of the AMS Committee on Human Rights of Mathematicians, please send an email.

Recent Cases

The case of Tuna Altinel

Latest update: 

On January 24, 2020 the Turkish court in Bursa acquitted Tuna Altinel of all charges against him. The prosecutors then filed an appeal against this acquittal. On July 6, 2020 an appeals court in Bursa rejected the prosecutor’s appeal. Following an additional waiting period, and as of September 7, 2020, Tuna Altinel’s acquittal of all criminal charges against him has become final. Once his passport is issued, Tuna Altinel will be able to return to France. However, on September 28, 2020, Altinel was notified that his passport application, which remained pending while his court case was in progress, had been denied, without any explanations for the denial provided. On April 2, 2021 the administrative court to which he had submitted an appeal of the refusal to return his passport has ruled in his favor. However, the Turkish State will likely appeal this ruling within 30 days. It has been two years of actions to punish Altinel for his exercise of freedom of speech and he still remains unable to leave Turkey and return to France.

Reports and other information:

 

The case of Azat Miftakhov

Latest Update: 

On Wednesday, June 16, the international mathematics community, including the AMS, will gather online in solidarity with Azat Miftakhov. We encourage you to attend the day's events, which will begin at 10:00 am EDT.

Azat Miftakhov is a mathematics PhD student at the Moscow State University in Russia. He was arrested in February 2019 on putative vandalism charges related to a political protest action in Moscow in January 2018. He has been held in pre-trial detention ever since that arrest. Credible reports indicate that Miftakhov has been subjected to serious mistreatment and even torture while in prison. The courts extended his pre-trial detention multiple times beyond the normal 6-month maximum allowed by the Russian law.  A Russian human rights group "Memorial" considers Miftakhov a political prisoner. Miftakhov’s trial took place, with considerable delays, at the Moscow Golovinsky District Court, in the second half of 2020. The prosecution deployed testimony from "secret" government witnesses, including a key witness who apparently died in January 2020 but whose testimony was nevertheless admitted at trial. The trial concluded on December 25, 2020, and the prosecutors requested a 6-year prison sentence for Miftakhov.  On January 18, 2021 the Golovinsky District Court in Moscow found Azat Miftakhov guilty of the charge of hooliganism and sentenced him to 6 years imprisonment, to be served in a general regime prison colony. Prior to the verdict, over 50 members of the Russian Academy of Sciences published an open letter in support of Azat Miftakov. Miftakhov's lawyer indicated that he plans to appeal the verdict.

Reports and other information

 

The case of Mikhail Lobanov

Latest Update: 

Mikhail Lobanov, a math professor at Moscow State University (MSU), was arrested on March 21, 2020 in Moscow, Russia. He was one of several people arrested that day for holding a single-person picket -- his in support of Azat Miftakhov, a PhD math student at MSU held under arrest in Moscow since February 2019 on a putative vandalism charge. As reported by the Scholars at Risk network, Lobanov was arrested in front of the main MSU building while holding a sign that called for Miftakhov’s release. Lobanov was charged with violating a Russian federal law governing rallies and was released later in the evening of March 21. In June 2020, a district court in Moscow convicted Lobanov of violating that federal law and fined him 10,000 roubles.  June 23, 2020

Reports and other information:

Cases of Human Rights Violations in Eqypt

Latest Updates: 

There have been a number of reports of disappearances and detention of human rights activists in Egypt. 

  • Manar Adel Abu Elnaga -- In March 2019, Manar Adel Abu Elnaga, assistant lecturer in mathematics at Tanta University in Alexandria, her husband Omar Abdel Hamid Abu Alnaga, and their 11-month old son were abducted from their home by Egyptian security forces. Although it was reported that she had been arrested in February of 2020, nothing was known to their family of their whereabouts until February 20, 2021, when she and her child appeared in court charged with joining and funding a terrorist organization. After interrogation, Manar was taken to al-Qanater women's prison for pre-trial detention of unknown duration. As her son is now three years old, he was separated from his mother because children over two years old are not permitted to remain in prison with their mothers; he is now living with an aunt. On March 1, 2021, eight Egyptian human rights organizations called for the release of Manar and disclosure of her husband's whereabouts. There is currently no news of a response.  March 8, 2021
  •  Eight human rights organizations issued a statement on March 10, 2021 condemning Egypt's public prosecution for failing to address complaints of torture and other violations for prisoners in detention. Early in March, Alaa Abd-El-Fattah -- blogger, software developer, pro-democracy activist and son of Egyptian mathematician Laila Soueif, and who has been under arrest since September 2019 on unknown charges -- testified in court that he "heard prisoners being tortured by electrocution from his cell." According his sister Mona Seif, the family filed a complaint with the public prosecution regarding his testimony but did not receive a response. The Ministry of Interior then issued a statement specifically denying that there is torture in Egyptian prisons and threatening legal action against Mona Seif. Laila Soueif's other daughter Sanaa Seif, also a noted human rights activist, was arrested by the Egyptian police in June 2020 while trying to visit a public prosecutor's office concerning her brother's treatment and was sentenced in March 2021 to 18 months in prison for "spreading false news about the Covid pandemic" and "using Facebook to terrorize people." Laila Soueif is a professor of Mathematics at the University of Cairo and she continues to advocate for the release of her children. Updated March 24, 2021

 

News and Information on Human Rights

  • In the past few weeks, a number of mathematicians have been among the more than 5,000 said to have been detained or arrested in more than 90 Russian cities for participation in largely peaceful protests over the sentencing of political dissident Alexei Navalny. These mathematicians include Alexander Kuznetsov, professor in the Higher School of Economics and at the Steklov Institute and corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Science. He was arrested along with his daughter at a Navalny protest rally on January 31. He was held for several days and subsequently fined 15,000 rubles and released. Anna Wellikok, a St. Petersburg State University graduate and new instructor at the Big Data and Information Retrieval School, was convicted of retweeting a call to a Navalny demonstration and sentenced to 14 days administrative arrest and removed from her school’s faculty list. Others include Vasily Mokin, a former Mathematical Olympiad gold medal winner who studied at Moscow State University; Pavel Thomas, a graduate of the Higher School of Economics Faculty of Mathematics, sentenced to seven days in jail; and mathematics student Ilya Dumansky, sentenced to 10 days of administrative arrest. Other students detained include Yuri Arutyunov, Daniel Kopytov and Andrey Pereveev. There are uncorroborated reports of harsh measures taken against protesting students and professors and most Russian universities warn against taking part or they could face being expelled and possible criminal liability. February 9, 2021
  • On September 28, 2020 a group of 67 faculty members of the Mathematics and Mechanics Faculty of the Belarusian State University posted a Youtube video statement entitled “Mathematicians against lies, violence and lawlessness” protesting the government response to the disputed August 9 Presidential elections in Belarus and the subsequent nationwide protests. On Sunday, October 4, one of the math faculty members appearing in that video statement, docent Alexander Tykun, was arrested in Minsk during a protest march. During a court trial the following day, Alexander Tykun was sentenced to 12 days in prison for participating in an unauthorized mass political action. The court schedule was announced only a few minutes before the case was called and Tykun’s lawyer was not able to make it to court in time, so he had no legal representation. More informationOctober 5, 2020
  • Vadim Belski, a computer science instructor at the Homel Technical University in Belarus, was arrested by police on campus while holding a one-person anti-government picket in solidarity with a protesting miner. Later the same day, the students of the university and their parents held a protest on campus in support of Belski, demanding his release. At the conclusion of the student protest, the police went to the lecture conducted by Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, Vladimir Bystrenkov, pulled him out of class and arrested him, apparently holding him responsible for not preventing the student protest from taking place. A court in Homel sentenced Vadim Belski to 3 days of jail. The court fined Vladimir Bystrenkov 270 roubles.  September 11, 2020
  • Over thirty years after American mathematician Scott Johnson fell to his death from a cliff in Australia, a man has been charged with a gay hate crime in the incident. In a news story from TIME, the New South Wales police force announced the arrest of a man in connection with the murder.  Johnson, who graduated from the California Institute of Technology in 1983, is memorialized by the Scott Russell Johnson Achievement awards, established by Johnson’s family in 2001 and presented at CalTech.  May 12, 2020

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Karen Saxe
American Mathematical Society
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