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Justice and Forensic Science

Physicians for Human Rights advocates that victims of violations of human rights and/or humanitarian law have a right to justice, the right to know the truth, and to have history recorded accurately in order to establish a historic record grounded in science and resistant to revisionism. Forensic science touches on nearly every area of our work, from our International Forensic Program (IFP), to our Asylum Program, to our work in gender violence and rape as a weapon of war.

The IFP is dedicated to providing independent forensic expertise to document and collect evidence of human rights violations and of violations of international humanitarian law. Since the 1980s, PHR has mobilized forensic scientists and other experts worldwide to respond to inquiries by governments, organizations, families, and individuals. Our experts come from all forensic science disciplines, ranging from forensic pathology to forensic anthropology, and include experts from analytical sciences in forensic laboratories, such as firearm examiners.

Transitional Justice in Afghanistan

PHR has been documenting human rights abuses in Afghanistan since 1997. As part of the grassroots push for transitional justice, we have partnered with Afghan civil society organizations and national stakeholders in a multi-year program to develop forensic capabilities to help Afghanistan address human rights violations and abuses as the country moves away from conflict and seeks national healing.

Death Investigations

The International Forensic Program uses forensic science to investigate both mass graves and, sometimes, individual deaths.

Environmental Assessments

The IFP participates in environmental assessments using forensic science to discover the effects of toxins on local populations.

Torture Investigations

PHR uses forensic science to investigate, document, and advocate against torture of US-held detainees, and through its Asylum Program, to conduct medical and psychological forensic evaluations of survivors of torture and abuse who seek asylum in the US.

Forensic Training

The International Forensic Program offers courses and online training in forensic science, human identification, DNA analysis, and international forensic investigations. Our online course is open to the public.

Trump Administration Must Preserve Copies of Senate Torture Report (June 2, 2017)

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) objects to the Trump Administration’s move to return to Congress copies of the Senate’s 2014 report on the CIA’s torture program.

PHR Unveils Anti-Torture Pledge for Health Professionals (May 18, 2017)

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) today launched a pledge for health professionals across the United States to stand together in their rejection of torture, voicing the consensus that torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment are absolutely prohibited in all circumstances.

PHR Denounces ICC Decision to Vacate Charges Against Kenya’s Deputy President (April 5, 2016)

PHR denounced the decision by the International Criminal Court to declare a mistrial in the case against Kenyan Deputy President William Samoei Ruto and journalist Joshua Arap Sang.

PHR Welcomes Guilty Verdict Against Radovan Karadzic, Key Figure in Bosnia’s Genocide (March 24, 2016)

PHR hailed today’s landmark guilty verdict against former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war. After almost six years of proceedings, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) found the former political leader responsible for some of the worst atrocities in Europe since World War II.

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Who's Afraid of the ICC? (December 8, 2016)

The rising critique of the ICC is not about bias; it’s about fear. Fear that the court is actually doing its job. Fear that heads of states may actually be held to account for violating human rights, disappearing civilians who protest against them, and occupying neighboring states.

Standing Up for Women and Girls in Afghanistan: PHR and Allies Challenge "Virginity Testing" (September 28, 2016)

Afghan physician Dr. Tamana Asey finds hymen examinations to be "total abuse." She is at the forefront of change on this issue.

Assad, Beware the Long Arm of Justice (April 13, 2016)

As a shaky ceasefire in Syria appears on the verge of collapse, peace talks are set to resume in Geneva this week. It’s a harrowing time for Syrians, made all the worse by the Syrian government continuing to willfully cut off deliveries of food and medicine to civilians.

What Does 2016 Hold for Ukraine? (February 16, 2016)

Nearly two years ago, Ukraine’s winter of revolution was melting into an unsteady spring. As the Ukraine crisis moved into 2015, the Early Warning Project put the formerly stable country in the top 20 on its at-risk countries list.

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Urgent Need for Independent International Inquiry on Yemen (August 2017)

PHR urges permanent representatives of member and observer states of the United Nations Human Rights Council to support the creation of an independent international investigation into violations and abuses of international human rights law and international humanitarian law in Yemen since the start of the current conflict.

Joint Letter to Mattis, Pompeo and McCabe. Re: US Cooperation with Abusive Allied Forces in Yemen (August 2017)

We, the undersigned human rights, civil liberties, and religious organizations, write to urge you to make public to the fullest extent possible without disclosing sources and methods, any reviews conducted by your agencies into allegations that US-allied forces of the United Arab Emirates and UAE-backed Yemeni forces have been responsible for serious abuses in Yemen.

PHR Warns Against Excessive Use of Force at Standing Rock (February 2017)

In a letter to Douglas J. Burgum, governor of North Dakota, and acting Attorney General Dana Boente, PHR voices concerns over reports of excessive use of force by law enforcement toward protestors in the context of the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Statement on Anal Examinations in Cases of Alleged Homosexuality (May 2016)

The Independent Forensic Expert Group, of which PHR’s Medical Director, Dr. Vincent Iacopino, is a member, released this statement on anal examinations in cases of alleged homosexuality.

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Featured Investigation

Transitional Justice in Afghanistan

Transitional justice refers to the process of addressing human rights violations and abuses as a country moves away from conflict and seeks national healing. Read More »