Mass atrocities — including certain war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide — are human rights violations directed against a population. PHR has prepared evidence of war crimes and testified at various international bodies, including tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, and the Special Court of Sierra Leone. Based on our investigations, we are working to prevent, stop, and provide accountability for mass atrocities in the following areas.
When Libyans first took to the streets to protest Colonel Muammar Qaddafi’s autocratic rule in February 2011, Qaddafi's response was quick and brutal: attack protesters and target civilians in a deliberate campaign to quash dissent across the country. PHR documented some of the conflict's most severe human rights violations that must be addressed as a new civilian government emerges.
PHR’s research in Burma’s Chin State revealed extraordinary levels of state and military violence against civilian populations. The abuses included forced labor, religious persecution, beatings, killing, disappearances, torture, rape, and widespread pillaging.
Stateless refugees from Burma face death from starvation and disease in makeshift camps because the government of Bangladesh denies them access to humanitarian aid. PHR has called for a comprehensive regional response to the Bangladesh government's failure to protect and care for the refugees, as well as to the human rights violations in Burma that have caused some 300,000 Muslim minority Rohingya to flee that country.
As many as 2,000 Taliban prisoners are believed to have been killed by US-allied Afghan troops and buried in a mass grave in the northern desert of Dasht-e-Leili. PHR investigators discovered the mass grave in 2002. Since then, we have called for a full investigation of the alleged massacre.
In Afghanistan, over 100 mass grave sites allegedly contain many of Afghanistan’s estimated 1.5 million dead. PHR is helping to develop local forensic capabilities so the people of Afghanistan can address past abuses and begin the process of transitional justice, turning from violence to peace.
In 2008, PHR witnessed the utter collapse of Zimbabwe's health system, resulting in the death of some 4,000 from cholera. Today, Zimbabwe remains a country battered and torn by political strife, infrastructure collapse, and grave human rights abuses. PHR continues to call for the correction of the health and human rights situation in the country.
Hundreds of thousands of people have died in the ongoing genocide in Darfur, Sudan. Following our three investigations into the crisis, PHR has mobilized health professionals, students, and members of the general public to press for urgently needed security in Darfur and compensation and restitution for survivors.
Massacre in Burma: PHR Calls for Immediate Investigation (May 20, 2013)
PHR today released a report detailing the organized attacks against Muslims that took place in central Burma in late March and resulted in the killing of at least 20 children and four teachers. The report provides evidence that state authorities, who idly stood by watching the events unfold, are complicit in these crimes.
How Doctors Would Know If Syrians Were Hit With Nerve Gas (NPR.org, May 1, 2013)
President Obama affirmed Tuesday that there's evidence Syrians have been attacked with chemical weapons — in particular, nerve gas. But that's not the same as proof positive. So PHR is setting up a network to get fact sheets about chemical weapons into the hands of Syrian physicians.
Independent Investigation and Forensic Protocols Are Key to Assessing Chemical Weapons Use (April 26, 2013)
Amid accumulating signs that chemical weapons may have been used recently in Syria, PHR repeats its call for a thorough independent investigation of such allegations to be conducted immediately that follows forensic protocols for handling evidence.
Afghanistan Must Bolster Its Capacity to Identify the Missing, PHR Declares in New Report (April 24, 2013)
A new report by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) released at a conference in Kabul today on “Truth Seeking and the Role of Forensic Science” outlines steps that Afghanistan can take if it is to make progress in addressing the right to truth of victims of more than three decades of violent conflict by identifying missing and disappeared persons.
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Visit by Burmese Leader Offers Key Opportunity to Press for Human Rights Improvements (May 20, 2013)
Burmese President Thein Sein is scheduled to meet with President Obama today, marking the first visit to the United States by a Burmese head of state in 47 years. Since that visit in 1966, the people of Burma have endured governmental mismanagement, brutal military rule, and serious human rights violations. Burma became a pariah state, synonymous with its infamous imprisonment of political activists and militarized attacks on civilians.
A Dark Day for Human Rights in Burma (April 25, 2013)
On April 22, the European Union lifted all sanctions against the Burmese government except for an arms embargo. The international community’s rush to applaud the Burmese government’s nascent reforms will ultimately hamper further improvements.
UN Commission on the Status of Women Affirms International Dedication to Ending All Forms of Violence Against Women (March 19, 2013)
United Nations member states ended the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) by adopting agreed conclusions that affirmed international dedication to ending all forms of violence against women.
PHR Joins Coalition to Arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir (March 6, 2013)
Four years ago today, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Omar al-Bashir, President of Sudan, on seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity including killings, rape, and torture. On July 12, 2010, Bashir was also charged with three counts of genocide.
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Massacre in Central Burma (May 2013)
Anti-Muslim violence swept through central Burma in spring 2013, reportedly sparked by an argument at a gold shop and the killing of a Buddhist monk in Meiktila, Mandalay. Homes, mosques, and madrassas were destroyed, and over 100 people lost their lives. This report is the result of an investigation by a PHR team, undertaken shortly after the violence occurred.
PHR's report outlines steps that Afghanistan can take if it is to make progress in addressing the right to truth of victims of more than three decades of violent conflict by identifying missing and disappeared persons.
The identification and repatriation of individuals killed and “disappeared” during the recent conflict in Libya and the previous regime of Colonel Muammar Qaddafi constitute one of the most urgent challenges facing the interim government of Libya.
President Obama is choosing an odd time to make history as the first US president to visit Burma. Ethnic violence continues to devastate Rakhine State in western Burma, conflict rages in northern Kachin State, and military officials responsible for some of the worst violence in the country continue to thrive in a climate of impunity.
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Richard Sollom leads human rights investigations to document and expose grave emergency and emerging human rights situations globally. He oversees the design and safe and ethical conduct of PHR’s research work related to the investigation and documentation of war crimes and mass atrocities. Sollom also oversees research, investigations and advocacy on violations of medical neutrality and the systematic discrimination in the delivery or access to health care. Read More »