International Human Rights Violations

Uganda Child in Refugee Camp (U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum)

The FBI, through its International Human Rights Unit, plays a vital role in the U.S. government’s coordinated efforts to identify, locate, investigate, and prosecute perpetrators of genocide, war crimes, and other related mass atrocities.

Overview 

The IHRU leverages the FBI’s investigative expertise, techniques, and legal authorities to identify, locate, investigate, and prosecute perpetrators of serious human rights or humanitarian law violations, including genocide, torture, war crimes, female genital mutilation, and the recruitment or use of child soldiers. The IHRU leverages the law enforcement and intelligence efforts of all 56 FBI field offices and our legal attachés in order to investigate and hold perpetrators of mass atrocities and serious HRV accountable to the rule of law in a U.S. or foreign country’s judicial system.

The IHRU conducts this mission in close collaboration with the Department of Justice (DOJ) Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section (HRSP), ICE/HRVWCC, the Department of State (DOS), and the U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC).

The IHRU grew out of the Genocide War Crimes Program, which was created in 2009 by the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division. In November 2014, the unit was realigned under the Bureau’s Criminal Investigative Division and renamed the International Human Rights Unit.

The IHRU routinely coordinates with foreign counterparts on human rights investigations, and participates in numerous interagency and NGO meetings and trainings. The FBI has also partnered with the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at the Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center (HRVWCC), which facilitates a whole-of-government approach to combating human rights violations. The FBI aggressively pursues human rights law enforcement through its role at the HRVWCC, traditional investigative methods in the field, intelligence-driven initiatives, and coordinated efforts with both civil society and domestic and foreign law enforcement partners.

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.

Mission 

The mission of the FBI’s International Human Rights Unit (IHRU) is to mitigate the most significant threats posed by international human rights violators through effective intelligence collection and targeted enforcement action in collaboration with both domestic and international accountability efforts.

The FBI is committed to investigating human rights violations and appreciates tips and information from the public and non-government partners. If you have any information related to perpetrators of genocide, war crimes, or other related mass atrocities, please submit it to us https://tips.fbi.gov/ or contact your local FBI office, domestically or internationally.

Rwanda Belgian Memorial

Jurisdiction 

The FBI has had authority to investigate human rights issues since 1988, when Congress made genocide a crime under U.S. law. Presidential Executive Order 13107, issued in 1998, is the principal authority that directs our nation’s commitment to international human rights treaties and responsibilities in the enforcement of human rights violations. The order stipulates that all government agencies must coordinate to enforce human rights laws within their own areas of responsibility. The FBI—through the Department of Justice—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.

While the term “human rights” has different connotations, the responsibilities of the Department of Justice—and the FBI—relate primarily to enforcement matters of five specific laws.

These five statutes typically grant the FBI jurisdiction when:

  • The perpetrator is a U.S. person,
  • The victim is a U.S. person, or
  • The perpetrator, regardless of nationality, is located in the U.S.

Fact Sheet: Human Rights Outreach 

The FBI reaches out to diaspora communities for a variety of reasons, building relationships to serve and protect the public. The FBI has a mandate to investigate serious human rights violations to ensure perpetrators within the U.S. or with U.S. status abroad face justice for their crimes.

In order to find perpetrators who often blend into communities by posing among innocent refugee populations, the FBI needs the assistance of diaspora community members. The FBI seeks information from diaspora members, refugees, and asylum seekers here in the U.S. with knowledge of human rights violations committed abroad. Tips from witnesses and victims are key to assisting FBI efforts to find perpetrators hiding here in the U.S. and bring them to justice. Additionally, tips about serious human rights violations that have taken place abroad help the FBI identify human rights violators and work with partner agencies to keep them from coming into the U.S. in the future.

Diaspora members, refugees, and asylum seekers have often faced incredible hardships to find safety here in the U.S., and the FBI wants to ensure those responsible for suffering can never find safe haven in the U.S. Below are some facts about your rights and protections when speaking with the FBI:

  • The FBI cannot threaten or harass you or your family or detain you without cause.
    • The FBI’s purpose in asking diaspora communities about human rights abuses is only to gather information about perpetrators who may be in the U.S.—you should not feel intimidated to speak to the FBI.
  • You can always remain anonymous if you choose.
    • The FBI has an online tips website where you can anonymously submit information: tips.fbi.gov.
    • If you choose to speak to the FBI, you can tell the FBI you do not want any information attributed to you; the FBI will respect your privacy.
  • The FBI fully understands the risk to you and your family when reporting information to the FBI and will undertake all possible precautions for your safety.

The FBI understands telling your story can be extremely difficult. The FBI has specially trained victim specialists at all field office locations that can accompany agents to meetings to ensure you feel comfortable and supported. For information about victim assistance, you can call the FBI’s Office for Victim Assistance at (866) 828-5320.

Contact the FBI 

The FBI seeks information from diaspora members, refugees, and asylum seekers here in the U.S. with knowledge of human rights violations committed abroad.

If you have any information about perpetrators of genocide, war crimes, or other related mass atrocities, please: