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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:

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.

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.

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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.

A Grave on the Road to Justice in Rwanda (December 11, 2015)

As the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) wraps up its dockets in Arusha, Tanzania on December 14 and hands over cases to other processes, we reflect on landmark “firsts” accomplished by the tribunal: the first international prosecution for the crime of genocide, and the first conviction for rape and sexual violence as forms of genocide.

Tech & Human Rights Blog Series: Bringing Low-Resourced Areas Out of Darkness (June 9, 2015)

Power cuts are a daily reality of working in low-resourced, conflict-affected countries like the DRC, and are only one of many such hurdles. These challenges are not insurmountable.

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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.

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.

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.

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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 »