Source description last updated: 9 November 2016
In brief: Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), founded in 1986, is a global, non-governmental, non-profit organization documenting and advocating against mass atrocities and severe human rights violations by using medicine and science.
Coverage on
Reports (SR)
Covered quarterly on, for countries of priorities A-C.
“PHR was founded on the idea that physicians, scientists, and other health professionals possess unique skills that lend significant credibility to the investigation and documentation of human rights abuses. […] PHR’s work focuses on the physical and psychological effects of torture and sexual violence, the forensic documentation of attacks on civilians, the unnecessary and excessive use of force during civil unrest, and the protection of medical institutions and health professionals working on the frontline of human rights crises.
[…] PHR has come to occupy an important position in the human rights movement. We focus on the critical role of forensic science, clinical medicine, and public health research in ensuring that human rights abuses are properly documented using the most rigorous scientific methodologies possible.” (Physicians for Human Rights website: About us, undated)
“PHR works to end torture and ill-treatment, protect medical workers, secure justice for victims, and ensure that those who violate human rights are held accountable.” (Physicians for Human Rights website: Reports, June 2016)
“We provide credible evidence, data, and research to corroborate allegations of human rights violations not only to prevent future abuses, but also to ensure the prosecution of perpetrators by courts, tribunals, and truth commissions.” (Physicians for Human Rights website: About us, undated)
“PHR strives to empower and support local communities in documenting and preventing human rights violations. We have developed partnerships with local health and human rights groups across the globe, forging strong alliances and sharing common frameworks and strategies.” (Physicians for Human Rights website: About us, undated)
PHR’s International Forensic Program (IFP) “is dedicated to providing independent forensic expertise to document and collect evidence of human rights violations and of violations of international humanitarian law.” (Physicians for Human Rights website: Justice and Forensic Science, undated)
PHR’s Asylum Network “consists of over 400 health professionals throughout the United States who offer pro bono forensic evaluations to document evidence of torture and other human rights abuses for immigrants fleeing persecution in their home countries.“ (Physicians for Human Rights website: Health Professionals: Join the Asylum Network, undated)
“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.” (Physicians for Human Rights website: Training & Education, undated)
PHR has, together with other NGOs, formed the International Campaign to Ban Landmines in 1991, which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 (Frängsmyr, Tore [ed.]: Les Prix Nobel. The Nobel Prizes 1997, 1998).
PHR projects and investigations are funded by individuals, foundations and other originations. 70% of its budget is financed through grants, moreover through contributions, in-kind contributions, investment income and other revenues. PHR’S total operating revenues for FY 2015 amounted to 8,491,742 US Dollars. (Physicians for Human Rights website: Annual Report 2015, 2016, p.31)
Scope of reporting:
Geographic focus: Special focus on: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Chad, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guatemala, Honduras, Iran, Kenya, Libya, Mexico, Myanmar, Sudan, Syria, United States, Zimbabwe.
Thematic focus: Global use of torture; mass atrocities such as war crime, crimes against humanity and genocide; stopping rape in war and persecution of health workers
In order to prevent, stop, and ensure accountability “for mass atrocities (crimes against humanity, genocide, and war crimes) and acts that cause severe physical or mental harm to individuals […] PHR conducts medical and scientific investigations. Our research methodology is based on:
Forensic science, ranging from autopsies of individuals to exhumations of mass graves, that produces evidence for courts.
Medical and psychological examinations of individuals to show physical and mental harm caused by abuses such as torture.” And “Epidemiological research that involves surveying entire populations in order to show the prevalence of abuse.” (Physicians for Human Rights website: How We Work, undated)
“In partnership with local human rights organizations and other NGOs, our human rights experts meet with key representatives from governments, the United Nations, international courts, and regional groups like the African Union and the European Union.” (Physicians for Human Rights website: About us, undated)
For instance, for the report “Madaya: Portrait of a Syrian Town Under Siege”, co-written by the Syrian American Medical Society, “researchers at both organizations conducted semi-structured phone, Skype, and WhatsApp interviews with medical and relief staff currently working in Madaya or who recently left Madaya, as well as with former residents of the area. Interviews focused on access to health care, medical conditions in the town (starvation and malnutrition, chronic and acute illnesses,communicable diseases), humanitarian aid deliveries, medical evacuations, and the imposition of the siege. These interviews were supplemented with information gathered through online, open-source research in both Arabic and English.” (Physicians for Human Rights website: Madaya: Portrait of a Syrian Town Under Siege, July 2016)
For the research on the report on “Lethal in Disguise: The Health Consequences of Crowd-Control Weapons”, for instance, “PHR sought to triangulate expert field experience on the use of CCWs and the legal frameworks under which these weapons are used with medical literature on related injuries. First, PHR conducted a semi- structured survey among INCLO member organisations and other civil liberties and human rights experts. […] Second, PHR conducted extensive research on six commonly used CCWs; […] Finally, PHR conducted a literature review of publications on the health impacts of these weapons published over the past 25 years and analysed all relevant data […]” (Physicians for Human Rights website: Lethal in Disguise, March 2016)
Language(s) of publications:
Further reading / links:
PHR – Physicians for Human Rights: A Snapshot of Our Work Around the World
PHR – Physicians for Human Rights: Examining Asylum Seekers: A Health Professional's Guide to Medical and Psychological Evaluations of Torture, December 2012
International Campaign to Ban Landmines
All links accessed 13 October 2016.
All documents available on from this source