Justice and Forensic Science | International Forensic Program

The International Forensic Program (IFP) at PHR is dedicated to providing independent forensic expertise to document and collect evidence of human rights violations and of violations of international humanitarian law.

Since the 1980s, PHR has mobilized forensic scientists and other experts worldwide to respond to inquiries by governments, organizations, families, and individuals. Our experts come from all forensic science disciplines, ranging from forensic pathology to forensic anthropology, and include experts from analytical sciences in forensic laboratories, such as firearm examiners.

The IFP offers a variety of services which include forensic investigations, evaluations, monitoring, or review of work done by other parties, as well as specialized training. The IFP's forensic expertise and services can be requested by institutions, organizations, and individuals. PHR adheres to a policy of strict impartiality and is concerned with the consequences of human rights abuses.

Why We Do This Work

PHR advocates that victims of violations of human rights and/or humanitarian law have a right to justice, the right to know the truth, and to have history recorded accurately in order to establish a historic record grounded in science and resistant to revisionism. We believe this is a crucial step towards preventing leaders from acting with impunity and violating international humanitarian law. 

About our Services

Forensic Expertise

The IFP was formed in 1987 to address the growing need for scientific investigations into alleged human rights violations. Such cases may pertain to death investigations such as exhumations of mass graves, in-custody deaths, autopsies, and the identification of the dead.

Forensic experts working with the IFP have provided expert testimony at the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

Facilitating the Identification of Missing Persons

The IFP supports the identification of missing people in the context of war crimes and other human rights violations and those of individuals forcibly "disappeared." This may involve implementation of identification databases and dealing with families of victims. Read more about IFP's work on missing persons or with our partner organization Pro-Búsqueda.

Providing Specialized Training

The IFP provides forensic training to further scientific documentation of violations of human rights or humanitarian law. Training topics include crime scene documentation and photography, evidence collection, exhumation of graves and forensic anthropology/archeology and pathology, and the use/roles of various forensic specialists. The purpose of training is both to develop forensic capabilities and awareness, and to address the long-term sustainability of forensic investigations at an international level.

Assessments, Monitoring, Review, and Evaluations

Other services provided by the IFP are needs assessment for forensic investigations (such as mass grave exhumations) and the assessment of local forensic capacities. PHR's forensic experts may also conduct evaluations of forensic projects, reports, and services carried out by other entities and organizations.

>> Read more on the work of the IFP [pdf]

Contact Us

The forensic expertise and services represented by the many distinguished professionals affiliated with the International Forensic Program at Physicians for Human Rights have been requested by governments, institutions, international tribunals, international and domestic human rights organizations, and individuals seeking the scientific documentation of human rights violations. If you are in need of our services or would like to get in touch with us, please call us at 617.301.4200, email us at forensics [at] phrusa [dot] org, or use our online form.