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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.

Kachin Conflict in Burma Enters Fifth Year (June 9, 2015)

This week’s four-year anniversary of the breakdown of a ceasefire between the Kachin Independent Army and the Burmese Army, which had previously held for nearly two decades, renews attention on violence against ethnic minorities in Burma.

Burma’s Population Control Bill Threatens Maternal Health Progress (April 22, 2015)

The parliament of Burma recently passed a new “population control” bill that could represent a serious setback for the country’s maternal health advances if implemented in a coercive or discriminatory manner.

Attacks on Health Care in Syria Continue, Defying U.N. Resolutions (April 17, 2015)

Deliberate attacks on hospitals and health care professionals in Syria persist despite three United Nations resolutions aimed at protecting civilians and new hopes of relief following recent international pledges of aid to Syrians in need, according to an online map of attacks on health PHR updated today.

New Reports of Chemical Attacks in Syria Require Investigation, says Physicians for Human Rights (March 18, 2015)

PHR is alarmed by new reports of chemical barrel bomb attacks in the Syrian village of Sarmin and calls on the UN Security Council to conduct an inquiry.

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Tech & Human Rights Blog Series (May 26, 2015)

PHR's Tech & Human Rights Blog Series is meant to highlight the intersection between technology and human rights, and to examine the increasing role that technology can play in advancing human rights around the world.

Rohingya Refugee Crisis Results from Decades of Abuse by Burmese Government (May 21, 2015)

As of last week, an estimated 8,000 Rohingya refugees from Burma and Bangladesh were adrift on ships in the Indian Ocean, according to the International Organization for Migration.

Tech & Human Rights Blog Series: After Ushahidi – Using New Technologies to Prevent Mass Atrocities (May 19, 2015)

Kenya’s post-election violence was particularly remarkable given that it was witnessed and documented to an unprecedented degree by the country’s residents.

Tech & Human Rights Blog Series: The Power of Digital Documentation and Social Media (May 12, 2015)

One of the questions I am asked most often about my work on the Syria mapping project is how we are able to conduct our research without being on the ground in country.

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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.

The Crisis in Syria Turns Four (March 2015)

Ahead of the four-year anniversary of the crisis in Syria, Physicians for Human Rights and partner organizations call on permanent members of the UN Security Council to refrain from using their veto power when confronted with a crisis in which civilians are at impending risk of atrocity crimes.

Syria's Medical Community Under Assault (February 2015)

This fact sheet illustrates the deliberate targeting and destruction of medical facilities by government and opposition forces, loss of medical personnel, and resulting health consequences in Syria.

A Foreseeable Disaster in Burma (November 2014)

In this report, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) outlines the findings of its recent survey of households forcibly displaced by the Thilawa Special Economic Zone development project in Burma.

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