International Human Rights
Mission: Using medical and other scientific methods, we investigate and expose violations of human rights worldwide and we work to stop them. We support institutions that hold perpetrators of human rights abuses accountable for their actions. We educate health professionals, students in the fields of medicine,public health, and nursing, and members of the public. We mobilize people to become active in supporting a movement for human rights, and we strive to create a culture of human rights in the medical and scientific professions.
Geographic areas served: U.S. and international
Programs: Mass atrocities/forensicsphysicians for human rights (phr) holds perpetrators of mass atrocities accountable by using forensic science and epidemiology to document crimes and build capacity to further transitional justice. Phr regularly provides forensic analysis on cases of deaths in custody or other suspicious deaths or disappearances. Phr responds to requests for expert evaluations from the media, other human rights organizations, and governments. Phr reviews case files, including autopsy reports, related photographs and videos, and crime scene records, to ensure that documentation is thorough and accurate, and that evidence was properly collected, handled, and analyzed. We examine photos of bodies and crime scenes, assess the evidentiary value of digital photographs and their contents in order to support the allegations at hand or indicate manipulation. While much of this work is confidential or relates to ongoing criminal investigations, phr has supported numerous investigations this year, such as looking into allegations of summary executions in ukraine and analyzing photographs of corpses taken in syria to assess evidence of torture, starvation, and killings. This year, phr has also been working to document and call attention to attacks committed against medical workers, health care facilities, and patients in syria in order to track these crimes and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice. The individual targeting of clinics and hospitals are war crimes, and given the widespread and systematic nature of the attacks by government forces in syria, they rise to the level of crimes against humanity. Separately, using public health research methodologies, phr epidemiologists were able to identify patterns of human rights abuses in burma, documenting widespread violence against muslims and other serious human rights violations across the country.
sexual violence/rape as a weapon of warin an effort to stop the use of rape as a weapon of war and ensure justice for survivors, phr is training and mentoring medical, legal, and law enforcement actors to accurately document evidence of rape in central and east africa for use in courts. Health professionals are often the first responders to rape survivors, but many have little training in the forensic collection and documentation of evidence. In recognition of this gap, phr's program on sexual violence in conflict zones is working to institutionalize the important role of doctors in documenting rape and other forms of sexual violence by collecting and preserving forensic medical evidence. Phr trains doctors and nurses in the comprehensive and secure documentation of the physical injuries and psychological trauma experienced by survivors of sexual violence. Phr also trains law enforcement personnel, legal professionals, and the judiciary on the importance of medical evidence. In total, phr has trained nearly 700 doctors, nurses, police officers, lawyers, and judges to increase capacity for the collection of forensic medical evidence of sexual violence that will be admissible in national and regional courts, as well as at the international criminal court (icc) in the hague. This year, phr piloted an early prototype of medicapt, a forensic mobile phone application designed to help clinicians more effectively collect, document, and preserve forensic medical evidence of sexual violence crimes. This low-cost technology provides a digital version of a standard medical form that can be completed and eventually submitted to a court as evidence. The app will allow doctors to photograph injuries and will provide a checklist of steps for care and documentation, enabling clinicians to track both patient information and details of the crime. The app will also ensure secure uploads and storage in a protected location. An accompanying web app will also let police officers, lawyers, and judges securely access case information while still preserving chain of custody. By combining these components, medicapt will bolster sexual violence investigations and strengthen prosecutions by delivering accurate and secure forensic medical documentation to local courts.
anti-torture program/asylum programnationally, phr seeks to reform u. S. Policy and practice to prevent torture and abuse (including indefinite detention) in national security settings and to restore the u. S. Commitment against torture. Over the past year, we have built on our previous groundbreaking research and used our unique expertise to press the u. S. Government to uphold its obligation to prevent torture, to advocate for the humane treatment of detainees, and to prevent health professionals from participating in mistreatment and harm. In particular, phr continued its call for the public release of the senate select committee on intelligence's (ssci) report on cia torture to ensure a full accounting of abuse that has occurred. We mobilized the voice of the medical community to urge the white house and the senate committee to support the report's release. These efforts contributed to a bipartisan vote in april 2014 in favor of partial declassification. We also continued to call for an end to the force-feeding of detainees on hunger strike at guantanamo bay. At the height of the 2013 hunger strikes, phr leveraged our medical expertise to launch a targeted advocacy effort against force-feeding as a human rights violation, highlighting the practice as unethical, unlawful, and medically unsound. Phr organized a letter in november 2013 with signatures from dozens of prominent physicians and public health experts to president barack obama, urging him to end force-feeding and repeal protocols that authorize it. Phr provides asylum seekers with medical and psychological evaluations to document torture and abuse, and helps protect these survivors by improving the quality of health care in immigration detention centers, reducing the use of immigration detention, and eliminating arbitrary and unjustified barriers to asylum. Phr's asylum program provides pro bono examinations to those seeking asylum in the united states to evaluate their claims and testify on their behalf. We train health professionals in providing physical and psychological evaluations of victims of torture, ill-treatment, sexual violence, and persecution, and have established an expert network of evaluators. We now have more than 450 volunteers who have evaluated asylum seekers from over 58 countries. Each year, hundreds of survivors submit affidavits prepared by phr experts that confirm abuse and lend support to their asylum applications. Cases that involve a phr expert result in asylum being granted more than 90 percent of the time, a figure that far exceeds the national average, illustrating the power of medical testimony. This year, we placed 472 asylum cases - the greatest number to date - with our network of volunteers. This year, phr also tripled the number of trainings, holding six around the united states. In addition to evaluations, phr's asylum program collaborates with a number of medical student-run human rights clinics that are dedicated to providing forensic evaluations for asylum seekers. Phr worked with three medical schools to open asylum clinics this year.
other program areas such as outreach, communications, policy, general and health. These program areas support each of the three main programs.