Forensic Training Institute

Forensic Training Institute

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) has launched the Forensic Training Institute (FTI) to empower global communities to increase their capacity to collect, analyze, and preserve credible evidence that can be used to expose and stop human rights abuses. The institute is the umbrella under which PHR’s training efforts strengthen the ability of medical personnel to investigate torture, mass atrocities, sexual violence, and the persecution of health care workers. Trainees also include legal and law enforcement professionals who seek redress via local, national, and international justice mechanisms. With its unique focus on forensic science, public health, and medicine, FTI enables front line defenders to use these disciplines in documenting victims’ experiences and creating evidence-based records capable of holding human rights violators accountable for their crimes.

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Truth-telling, healing, reparations, and justice are often elusive for victims of torture, mass atrocities, and sexual violence, as well as persecuted health workers. But when evidence is properly collected, analyzed, and preserved, there is a much greater chance of attaining accountability and prompting policy change.

Training Environment

FTI works in countries facing significant challenges to human rights accountability, especially those lacking strong rule of law. The institute trains in conflict situations, but also partners with actors in more favorable settings in order to create sustainable human rights-respecting communities.

FTI works with partners around the world, including in Afghanistan, Burma, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Syria, Tajikistan, and the United States. We build the local forensic capacity to document physical and psychological torture, sexual violence, and claims of mass killings. FTI offers clinicians opportunities to improve their knowledge in forensics and human rights and to hone their skills in interviewing techniques, physical examination, proper evidence collection, crime scene documentation, forensic photography, and grave exhumation.

The medical, legal, and law enforcement personnel with whom FTI works bravely pursue human rights accountability, often under repressive conditions. Medical professionals, in particular, are guided by a professional commitment to impartiality and ethical principles. Such credibility enables them to be compelling witnesses and human rights advocates.

Current Activities:

Our Commitment to Trainees

While the necessary technical skills to expertly document torture, exhume a hidden grave, or gather evidence of rape as a weapon of war remain fairly consistent, there is no “one size fits all” approach to the institute’s trainings.

FTI acknowledges that cultural, legal, academic, and political contexts differ; trainee skills and experiences diverge; and risk factors and resources vary. FTI partners with local stakeholders to shape the content, format, and purpose of trainings; we have customized our trainings to adhere to best practices for curriculum development, using the ADDIE model. We employ a wide variety of tools and styles to communicate material. FTI establishes cadres of local experts through the Training of Trainers (ToT) in order to educate and support a growing network of individuals who can document human rights violations.

FTI is committed to maintaining the security and confidentiality of victims and documenters who partner with PHR by using the best possible security measures (i.e. data protection protocols, safe storage of forensic evidence, clandestine clinical exam facilities, etc.).