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Impact in 2011

Protecting Rights for Individuals

Free the Alaeis Campaign: Securing Freedom for Wrongfully Imprisoned Iranian Doctors

Dr. Kamiar & Dr. Arash Alaei Nov 7 2011 b&w
The doctors, together at last (Nov 7, 2011). Photo: Amy Hart.

PHR spearheaded the global campaign that built worldwide support for the release of Drs. Kamir and Arash Alaei from unwarranted detention. The brothers were detained in Iran’s Evin prison in 2008 for their innovative community-based work with HIV/AIDS patients in Iran and the United States. We were able to secure Kamiar’s release in October 2010 and Arash’s release in August 2011.

“Knowing that PHR and its members were working on our behalf sustained us when all seemed lost,” said Dr. Kamiar Alaei.

Providing Medical Evaluations to Survivors: Helping Individuals Secure Freedom in the United States

More than 400 survivors of violence, torture and trauma rely on PHR each year to gain asylum. Our Asylum Network, a trained group of nearly 500 health professionals, provides medical evaluations to document proof of persecution and abuse; these support legal claims to asylum.

One success story is “Aissata,” a twenty-seven year old who fled Guinea after rebel soldiers attacked her family’s home. She was raped, her mother beaten and her father kidnapped. Aissata was able to flee to the US. PHR connected her with one of our trained volunteer health professionals to conduct a medical evaluation in support of her legal case for asylum. Aissata’s application for asylum was approved, granting her a new life in the US.

Empowering Local Communities to Seek Justice and Accountability For Human Rights Abuses

Training Local Afghans to Use Forensic Science to Document Human Rights Violations

PHR launched a multi-year project in Afghanistan in September 2009. Our experts have worked closely to train and empower a local group of forensic investigators. With technical support from PHR, this group is conducting comprehensive documentation of mass graves in three provinces. As a result, for the first time in Afghanistan, physical evidence of mass atrocities will be documented scientifically.

PHR is providing local investigators with the skills necessary to identify victims of past human rights violations. Together with our local partners, we are helping families heal and bringing communities together to end decades of hostilities.

Stefan Schmitt examining forensic evidence, Libya 2011
Forensic Expert, IFP Director Stefan Schmitt, examines evidence at a massacre site in Tripoli.

Emergency Response to the Crisis in Libya

In September 2011, PHR sent a team of forensic and medical investigators to Tripoli following Qadaffi’s last grasp at power after nearly two months of intense violence.

Our team investigated an important massacre site by mapping and analyzing the crime scene for forensic evidence. We conducted medical evaluations of torture survivors and met with more than 20 physicians in the five main hospitals in Tripoli regarding attacks on hospitals, ambulances, doctors, and patients. The report documenting our findings brought to light important evidence of massacre and torture in Tripoli.

Advocating for Change

Protecting Patients and Physicians From Attack in Bahrain

OB/GYNs (three women)
PHR was instrumental in providing information that led the US government to include Bahrain in a list of major human rights violators in a formal submission to the UN Human Rights Council

In April 2011, PHR launched an emergency investigation in Bahrain after government authorities began to systematically target, abduct, detain, and torture physicians and station military forces in health facilities.

PHR’s report, Do No Harm: A Call for Bahrain to End Systematic Attacks on Doctors and Patients, was instrumental in compelling the US government to include Bahrain in a list of major human rights violators in a formal submission to the United Nations Human Rights Council.

PHR was a leader in the international effort to bar a proposed US arms sale with Bahrain. Following intense pressure from the human rights community, the US government postponed the sale pending a review of Bahrain’s human rights record. We continue to work for the human rights and proper legal treatment of the Bahraini health professionals charged as part of the 2011 protests against the Government of Bahrain.

Based on our work in Bahrain, PHR is working with congressional offices to introduce the Medical Neutrality Protection Act of 2011, which aims to protect health professionals and their patients in US foreign policy decisions.

Holding US Health Care Professionals Accountable for Participating in Tortureman in holding cell

After September 11, 2001, accounts of torture and abusive interrogation by the US government were widespread. The complicity of health care professionals—ranging from failure to report ill-treatment of prisoners to direct participation in interrogations—has enabled these techniques.

PHR and our network of health professional constituents have been leading initiatives in Massachusetts and New York to end the participation of health care professionals in torture practices once and for all. This legislation will allow these states to withhold licenses for health professionals who participate in the torture and ill-treatment of detainees.

>> PHR's impact in Asylum in 2011

25 Years of Impact


Deadly artifacts of past wars, landmines are responsible for the death and maiming of thousands of innocent civilian men, women, and children in countries already ravaged by the economic, environmental, and psychological scars of violent conflict. Most countries have banned the weapon, but not yet the United States.

Chemical Weapons

Chemical weapons cause widespread death and permanent injury. Once released, these difficult-to-control poisons kill indiscriminately, recognizing neither uniform nor flag. Infants, the elderly, and the chronically ill are particularly vulnerable.

War Crimes

A war crime is a punishable offense, under international law, for violations of the law of war by any person, military or civilian.  The goals of PHR's investigations into war crimes include revealing the truth, establishing accountability and grounds for prosecuting perpetrators, giving voice to victims, demonstrating the vast scope and trauma of rights violations, and creating an effective platform for advocating an end to the abuses.


Hidden from public view, prisons can become terrifying institutions of torture, disease, and degradation. Inmates can be deprived of food and health care, housed in unsanitary and degrading conditions, and subjected to cruel disciplinary practices and torture.

PHR has investigated prison conditions in the US and abroad to expose human rights violations and promote humane conditions and the availability of health care, exposing violations of the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners promulgated by the UN.

Reuniting Families Separated by War

Our Work with Asociación Pro-Búsqueda de Niñas y Niños Desaparecidos

An estimated 2,300 Salvadoran children were adopted in the US and Europe during the civil war years in El Salvador, many having been forcibly separated from parents and families by the military and government. Many of these children have grown up in their adoptive homes not knowing what happened to their families in El Salvador. Some of them know their birth names; others remember faces; many have no memories at all of that life.


PHR has been active in the documentation of living with HIV/AIDS, and advocacy for remedies and treatment. Our reports on HIV/AIDS examined problems related to HIV prevention and treatment that include barriers to testing, migration and trafficking of women, brain drain of health professionals, and discrimination in health care settings.