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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:

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.

White House Closes Inquiry Into Afghan Massacre – and Will Release No Details (ProPublica, July 31, 2013)

Soon after taking office, President Obama pledged to open a new inquiry into the deaths of perhaps thousands of Taliban prisoners of war at the hands of U.S.-allied Afghan fighters in late 2001. Last month, the White House told ProPublica it was still “looking into” the apparent massacre. Now it says it has concluded its investigation – but won’t make it public.

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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.

A Time for Truth in Afghanistan (August 19, 2014)

Afghans have endured injustice for decades. Victims languish in an environment where abuses are committed with impunity, fueling resentment and the country’s conflict itself.

How to seize the huge opportunity created by the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict (June 20, 2014)

“What a fabulous suit. She was perfect, perfect,” said a French woman standing behind me on the escalator. We had just emerged from two hours in a giant auditorium on the outskirts of London where we heard politicians, UN officials, and Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee speaking at the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict.

Still I Rise (June 13, 2014)

When U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry took the stage to give the keynote speech at the closing plenary of the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, I expected words that would strike all the correct notes.

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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 »