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Mass Atrocities

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.

War Crimes in Libya

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.

Crimes Against Humanity in Burma

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.

Refugee Crisis in Bangladesh

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.

War Crimes in Afghanistan

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.

Transitional Justice in Afghanistan

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.

Health Crisis in Zimbabwe

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.

Genocide in Darfur

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.

Physicians for Human Rights Honors Syrian Doctors, Two Philanthropists for Their Work (April 20, 2016)

Two Syrian doctors and the philanthropists Ayman and Sawsan Asfari were honored Monday evening, April 18, for their work supporting the people of Syria at a gala hosted by PHR in New York.

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.

Physicians for Human Rights Skeptical that Cessation of Hostilities Agreement Will Protect Civilians in Syria (February 22, 2016)

Though the United States and Russia have announced a “cessation of hostilities” in Syria to go into effect Saturday, PHR remains gravely concerned about continuing attacks on civilians.

Syria’s Neighbors Must Let Doctors Practice (February 2, 2016)

PHR is calling on world leaders to prioritize Syria’s shattered health system by creating mechanisms for thousands of displaced medical professionals to temporarily practice in neighboring countries. PHR’s call comes in light of this week’s conference of donor governments meeting in London to discuss response to the Syrian crisis.

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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.

We Must Hold Assad to Account for Murdering Doctors and Journalists (March 23, 2016)

On December 23, a paramedic with the civil defense, or White Helmets, was killed by Syrian government shelling while aiding the wounded in al Nashabiya, a small town in besieged Eastern Ghouta, in the Damascus suburbs. Three others were killed and 13 injured during that assault.

Failed Peace Talks Are a Death Sentence for Syrians (January 28, 2016)

Political wrangling in the lead up to Friday's U.N.-brokered peace talks has dramatically lowered expectations. But continued inaction at the diplomatic level, writes Elise Baker of PHR, is a "death sentence" for many Syrians trapped in besieged or remote areas across the country

Protecting Syria's civilians: another discarded New Year's resolution? (January 11, 2016)

It's been just three weeks since the UN Security Council adopted its latest resolution on the conflict in Syria, re-authorizing cross-border delivery routes for humanitarian aid and promising - once again - to take "further measures" if the parties to the conflict do not comply with international humanitarian law.

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Update on Syria – April 2016 (April 2016)

Syria’s cessation of hostilities, which came into effect on February 27, was supposed to reduce violence and guarantee delivery of humanitarian aid to desperate populations in need across Syria. The reduction of violence witnessed in the first weeks of the cessation has started to reverse course, and the cessation has largely failed on its promises to deliver life-saving humanitarian aid to the millions of Syrians in besieged and hard-to-reach areas.

Let Syria’s Health Professionals Work (February 2016)

In this paper, PHR provides recommendations to donor governments that would demonstrate their commitment to the health and well-being of the Syrian people, to the principles of mutual recognition of health professional qualifications, and to core commitments by the global community to sustainable development in the region.

Forced Displacements and Destroyed Lives around Upper Paunglaung Dam in Shan State, Myanmar (October 2015)

In this report, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) builds on its previous research on land confiscations in Myanmar by using an epidemiological survey tool to assess the human rights, livelihood, and health impacts on communities displaced by the reservoir created by Paunglaung dam in southern Shan state.

International NGOs Urge Ban Ki-moon to Negotiate Aid Access to Rakhine State, Myanmar (Burma) (May 2015)

Twenty-six international humanitarian aid and advocacy organizations have written to the United Nations Secretary-General, urging him to give his “personal attention” to the humanitarian crisis in Rakhine State, Myanmar (Burma) and to take “a personal lead” in negotiating for humanitarian access to all areas of Rakhine State.

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