Liberia child soldiers.jpg

Militia groups in conflict areas throughout Africa often round up children to indoctrinate and force them to fight against rival religious/ethnic groups. 

The FBI’s Genocide War Crimes Unit (GWCU) leads the Bureau’s efforts to investigate violations of four primary U.S. human rights statutes: genocide, torture, war crimes, and the recruitment and use of child soldiers. Learn more about these statutes and FBI jurisdiction.

Specifically, the work of the GWCU includes:

  • Domestically, conducting concurrent reviews of mass atrocity incidents.
  • Globally, focusing on the apprehension of internationally indicted war criminals. The FBI addresses all leads to identify any U.S. nexus to these war criminals and other perpetrators and provides support to other U.S. agencies and international partners in pursuit of human rights violators. This support takes many forms—including training, crime scene preservation, interviewing techniques, age-enhancing photos, fingerprint and other biometric identification services, and language services.

Publicly provided information also plays a vital role in FBI human rights investigations—our 56 field offices around the country and our more than 60 overseas legal attaché offices around the world receive information on human rights violations and violators based on the four statutes we cover. 


Buhimba, Uganda refugee camp in November 2007. U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum photo

Human rights investigations can be challenging:
They typically involve piecing together fragmentary information, interviewing overseas witnesses in conflict zones, collecting evidence in other countries, accommodating language barriers, etc. The FBI is uniquely positioned to address broader jurisdictional and geographical matters. Through its legal attachés around the world, the FBI is able to investigate leads, uncover evidence, pursue perpetrators, and coordinate with our international law enforcement partners.

In general, the FBI will initiate a human rights investigation when the perpetrator or victim is a U.S. person or the perpetrator is located in U.S., regardless of their nationality.

If the FBI determines that information or an allegation of genocide, war crime, or other related mass atrocity doesn’t fall within its jurisdiction, we don’t just drop the matter. We’ll work with our U.S. and/or international partners to ensure that all avenues are pursued in order to bring these perpetrators to justice.

A cross placed at the Kibimba, Burundi memorial site remembering the child victims of genocide. U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum photo

The FBI routinely collaborates when investigating human rights violations and violators.
Within the U.S., our primary partners are the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center, the State Department’s Office of Global Criminal Justice, and the Department of Justice’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section.

The Bureau—through the Department of Justice—also supports the multi-agency Atrocities Prevention Board recently created by Presidential Study Directive 10 to strengthen the U.S. government’s ability to foresee, prevent, and respond to genocide and mass atrocities. 

The FBI also works with our international partners and their court systems to locate and hold human rights violators accountable to the rule of law. We cooperate with INTERPOL, and we assist international courts and tribunals when there is a U.S. nexus or in accordance with U.S. laws, policies, and treaties. Examples of these international bodies include the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and the Special Court for Sierra Leone.


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 In Pursuit of…Joseph Kony

Joseph KonyIn 2005, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants for Joseph Kony—head of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA)—and four other LRA leaders for crimes against humanity and war crimes.

In 2010, the U.S. enacted into law the Lord’s Resistance Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act, which reaffirmed U.S. commitment to support our nation’s regional partners’ efforts to end the atrocities in central Africa. Key objectives of the U.S. commitment include increased protection of civilians, continued humanitarian relief, and—where the FBI’s Genocide War Crimes Program plays a supportive role—the apprehension of Kony and other senior LRA commanders.


Contact the FBI
If you have any information about perpetrators of genocide, war crimes, or other related mass atrocities, please submit it to us at https://tips.fbi.gov/ or contact your local FBI office, domestically or internationally.