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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:

PHR Denounces ICC Decision to Vacate Charges Against Kenya’s Deputy President (April 5, 2016)

PHR denounced the decision by the International Criminal Court to declare a mistrial in the case against Kenyan Deputy President William Samoei Ruto and journalist Joshua Arap Sang.

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.

France Opens Investigation into Torture in Syria (October 1, 2015)

PHR today welcomed an announcement that France has opened the world’s first criminal inquiry into torture in Syria.

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.

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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.

What Does 2016 Hold for Ukraine? (February 16, 2016)

Nearly two years ago, Ukraine’s winter of revolution was melting into an unsteady spring. As the Ukraine crisis moved into 2015, the Early Warning Project put the formerly stable country in the top 20 on its at-risk countries list.

Who Will Identify Ukraine’s Dead? (February 3, 2016)

Since 2014, 9,098 people have been killed in eastern Ukraine. To date, 1,164 bodies, all of them soldiers, have been recovered from these battlefields. Every week, more bodies—and parts of bodies—are delivered to the morgues in Dnepropetrovsk for identification and burial.

The Dark Side of Forensics in Tunisia (December 18, 2015)

This week, Tunisia celebrates the fifth anniversary of the uprising that led to the Arab Spring. It is, however, concerning to observe that, five years after the start of the revolution, human rights violations are still taking place, and abusive laws dating back to the dictatorship are still in effect.

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Enhancing a Regional Response to Crimes of Sexual Violence (December 2015)

PHR convened a three-day regional roundtable discussion between February 25 and 27, 2015 at the Lukenya Getaway in Athi River, Kenya. This report summarizes major points of discussion from this workshop.

Virginity and Hymen Testing: No Factual, Scientific, or Medical Basis (May 2015)

This forensic brief examines the validity of the use of hymen examinations to determine a women’s “virginity.”

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.

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.

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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 »