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Death Investigations

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

Current Investigations:

Kenyatta’s Appearance at the Hague a Welcome Step for Accountability (October 8, 2014)

Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta appeared today at the International Criminal Court (ICC), where he faces charges of crimes against humanity for his role in violence that followed the 2007 election.

As U.S.-Afghanistan Sign Troop Deal, CIA-Backed Warlord Behind Massacre of 2,000 POWs Sworn-In as VP (Democracy Now, September 30, 2014)

Afghanistan has inaugurated its first new president in a decade, swearing in Ashraf Ghani to head a power-sharing government. Joining him on stage Monday was Abdul Rashid Dostum, Afghanistan’s new vice president. Dostum is one of Afghanistan’s most notorious warlords, once described by Ghani himself as a "known killer." Dostum’s rise to the vice presidency comes despite his involvement in a 2001 massacre that killed up to 2,000 Taliban prisoners of war.

PHR Calls on Honduran Government to Address Impunity for Ill-Treatment and Torture (February 12, 2014)

PHR issued a report today, finding that the Honduran authorities failed to ensure justice in cases involving torture and/or ill-treatment following the 2009 coup d’état, and called on the Honduran government to ensure that these cases are prosecuted and the judicial system is restored.

PHR Welcomes Confirmation of Charles Taylor’s Sentence (September 26, 2013)

PHR today welcomed the confirmation of a 50-year sentence for former Liberia President Charles Taylor for his role in encouraging rebels in Sierra Leone to commit war crimes and planning some of the attacks during the country’s civil war.

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Moving Forward to End Sexual Violence (November 25, 2014)

PHR has helped local activists create numerous self-governing medical-legal networks across Kenya and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to help facilitate collaboration and cooperation among medical professionals, legal and judicial experts, the media, local communities, and NGOs.

Misguided Criticisms of the International Criminal Court (October 15, 2014)

The ICC has received a variety of criticism. The African Union, for example, has accused the court of anti-African bias. One of the most vocal critics is Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who charged the ICC with “shallowness” for pursuing the Kenya cases.

Iraq Must Seek Justice (October 10, 2014)

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Prince Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein called on Iraq to ratify the Rome Statute, or to allow the International Criminal Court (ICC) to exert jurisdiction over the situation in Iraq, following the release of a UN report that detailed horrific crimes within its territory.

The Key to Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones (September 29, 2014)

Sexual violence is a grave problem the world over, but it is particularly prevalent in conflict zones like the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo where I live and practice medicine. I frequently treat survivors of sexual violence, and many of my patients have been victims of this terrible crime on more than one occasion.

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Summary of Roundtable Discussion (June 2014)

PHR convened a Roundtable on Reparations for Survivors of Sexual Violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Washington, D.C. at Georgetown University on February 24, 2014. This report summarizes major points of discussion from this workshop.

Impunity in Honduras (February 2014)

PHR sent a team of forensic experts to Honduras to investigate cases of alleged torture and ill-treatment by the country’s security forces that had occurred in the aftermath of the 2009 coup d’état.

Securing Afghanistan's Past: Human Remains Identification Needs and Gap Analysis (April 2013)

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.

Libyan Human Identification Needs Assessment and Gap Analysis (March 2013)

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.

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Featured Investigation

Sergei Magnitsky, Russia

During his time in Russian police custody, Sergei Magnitsky, a 37-year old Russian anti-corruption lawyer, suffered calculated and deliberate neglect and inhumane treatment which ultimately lead to his death. Read More »

Featured Expert

Stefan Schmitt

Stefan Schmitt, MS

Stefan Schmitt directs PHR’s International Forensic Program. Most recently, Schmitt documented a massacre by Qaddafi forces in Tripoli for Libyan authorities and the International Criminal Court. Subsequently, the authorities asked him to assemble a team of forensic and legal experts to conduct a human identification needs assessment and gap analysis to advise on identifying the dead from Libya’s revolution. Read More »