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.
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.
The case of Azat Miftakhov
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 lawyers appealed, but the verdict and his sentence were upheld by the Moscow City Court on June 9, 2021. Unfortunately, in July 2021, Miftakhov was moved to the Correctional Colony number 17 in Omutinsk in Kirov Province, known for mistreatment and torture of prisoners by the authorities. On April 21, 2022 a cassation court in Moscow held a hearing on Miftakhov's appeal and reduced his sentence by only three months. The international mathematical community is very concerned for his safety and health and remains committed to fighting for his release. There is currently a letter circulating to the International Mathematical Union Executive Committee calling for his immediate and unconditional release. Russian mathematicians can still sign on to this open letter to support Azat Miftakov.
Reports and other information:
- Upcoming Event: Azat Miftakov Days Against the War, July 5-6, 2022
In continued solidarity with Azat and with the people of Ukraine, this event was renamed Azat Miftakov Days Against the War. Held in a virtual format, the first day (July 5) will honor the new generation of Russian mathematicians committed to human rights, the second day (July 6) will convene in a hybrid format (in person at the Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques (IHES) in Paris and also broadcast online) and will feature a panel on the human rights situation for academics in Russia. The second day event will address, in particular, the persecution of Russian academics and students opposed to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Mandatory registration for the Azat Miftakhov Days is currently open.
- Committee on Human Rights Letter to US State Dept. on Miftakhov Case at Biden-Putin Summit June 4, 2021
- Committee on Human Rights Letter to EU Special Representative for Human Rights on Miftakhov Verdict January 26, 2021
- AMS President Jill Pipher Letter to District Court in Miftakhov case January 5, 2021
- Statement of Concern by the French Mathematical Society November 2020
- Policy Statement about the Case of Azat Miftakhov January 2020
The case of Mikhail Lobanov
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
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. He has been under arrest and continuous detention since September 2019 and was sentenced to five years in prison in December 2021 charged with "spreading false news undermining national security." He had 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." She was released from prison in December 2021. Alaa Abd-El-Fattah remains imprisoned and fighting for basic rights, including being able to receive reading materials. He began a hunger strike in April 2022. Laila Soueif is a professor of Mathematics at the University of Cairo and she continues to advocate for the release of her daughter. Updated January 13, 2022
News and Information on Human Rights
- Tuna Altinel, a Turkish mathematician at the Université de Lyon, France, has once again had his passport invalidated. On April 26, 2022, a Turkish appeals court ruled against him based on an unknown inquiry and according to Turkish administrative law, the decision of the appeals court is final. This despite being acquitted of all "terrorism-related charges" in January 2020 by a Turkish administrative court in Bursa. Altinel served 81 days in detention and many months of trial proceedings prior to his initial acquittal simply for exercising his freedom of speech. With the aid of his legal counsel, he plans to appeal this most recent ruling at the Constitutional court, which is the last remaining appeal he can make in Turkey before taking his case to the European court of human rights. May 11, 2022
- 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