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For Immediate Release

PHR Experts to Speak at Law Conference on Refugee Crises

Cambridge, Mass. - 03/29/2012

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) experts will be featured at Still Waiting for Tomorrow: The Law and Politics of Unresolved Refugee Crises (pdf), a conference that will explore the scope and consequences of global refugee crises as well as potential policy responses to these crises. The conference will be held April 2-4 in Boston.

On an April 2 session titled, “State Responses to Refugee Flows,” Kristine Huskey, Director of PHR’s Anti-Torture Program, will address the legal barriers that deny refugees access to safe countries. She will evaluate the impact and legitimacy of the exclusion from refugee status based on “material support of terrorism” and other counter-terrorism polices enacted by the US in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

“Since 9/11, the United States has increasingly used the overly broad definition of ‘material support of terrorism’ to prosecute, detain and deny rights to thousands of individuals, mostly non-US citizens,” said Huskey. “Despite the number of protracted armed conflicts across the world and the current refugee crises, the US continues to apply a vague and expansive terrorism bar to keep people from entering this country when they have no other options.  In some cases, the people we are excluding also fought alongside US allies against Saddam Hussein, but are now considered “terrorists” under current immigration law.”

During the second day of the conference, Christy Fujio, Director of PHR’s Asylum Program, will appear on two panels. In the morning she will participate in a panel discussion following a screening of “REFUGE: Caring for Survivors of Torture.” Later she will moderate and speak on a panel featuring PHR experts Karen Naimer, Director of the Program on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones, and Mike Corradini, Asylum Advocacy Associate.

Fujio will discuss how forensic medical evaluations are serving as critical pieces of evidence for asylum seekers in the US, as well as for prosecutions of torturers globally. Corradini will speak about the immigration detention system in the US, which incarcerates thousands of asylum seekers annually, and Naimer will discuss the creation of a medical and legal network in Africa to combat sexual and gender-based violence.

“Attorneys and prosecutors are woefully uninformed about the power of forensic medical evaluations in torture cases,” said Fujio. “Physical and psychological documentation of torture and other ill treatment provides compelling evidence – often the only evidence aside from witnesses’ story – that can be used to prosecute perpetrators, obtain redress for victims, and serve as a basis for asylum.”

The Boston University School of Law will host the conference, which is open to the public and is co-sponsored by the American Society of International Law and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.  The panel of experts will include legal scholars, United Nations advisors, and human rights professionals. 

Since PHR’s inception, service to victims and survivors of torture through the application of medical and scientific expertise has been central to its mission, and through its Asylum Program PHR works to ensure that survivors of torture can find a safe haven in the United States. 

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is an independent organization that uses medicine and science to stop mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. We are supported by the expertise and passion of health professionals and concerned citizens alike.

Since 1986, PHR has conducted investigations in more than 40 countries around the world, including Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Sudan, the United States, the former Yugoslavia, and Zimbabwe.

  • 1986 — Led investigations of torture in Chile gaining freedom for heroic doctors there
  • 1988 — First to document the Iraqi use of chemical weapons on Kurds providing               evidence for prosecution of war criminals
  • 1996 — Exhumed mass graves in the Balkans and Rwanda to provide evidence for               International Criminal Tribunals
  • 1997 — Shared the Nobel Peace Prize for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines
  • 2003 — Warned US Policymakers on health and human rights conditions prior to and               during the invasion of Iraq
  • 2004 — Documented genocide and sexual violence in Darfur in support of international               prosecutions
  • 2010 — Investigated the epidemic of violence spread by Burma’s military junta
  • 2011 — Championed the principle of noninterference with medical services in times of               armed conflict and civil unrest during the Arab Spring
  • 2012 — Trained doctors, lawyers, police, and judges in the Democratic Republic of the               Congo, Kenya, and Syria on the proper collection of evidence in sexual               violence cases
  • 2013 — Won first prize in the Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention with MediCapt, our               mobile app that documents evidence of torture and sexual violence

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