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September 8, 2023Washington, DC, United StatesPartnership and Engagement, Human Rights Violators

Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center hosts anniversary symposium

WASHINGTON — Homeland Security Investigations’ (HSI) Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center (HRVWCC) hosted a symposium at the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Yates Auditorium on Sept. 7, commemorating the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s 20 years of holding human rights violators accountable and seeking justice for victims.

“Today marks two decades of partnership with the international community in the fight against human rights violations and war crimes — HSI is dedicated to continuing our mission of denying safe haven to suspected war criminals and human rights violators and holding them accountable for their actions,” said HSI Assistant Director for National Security Andre Watson.

“Since the inception of the Department of Homeland Security’s human rights enforcement efforts in 2003, the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, particularly through our Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section, has worked closely with our dedicated colleagues in the Human Rights Violator Law Division and at HSI to secure justice for victims of war crimes, genocide and other atrocities,” said acting Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri. “We congratulate our partners on their two decades of success in the fight to protect human rights and remain committed to our joint mission to hold those who commit these unspeakable crimes accountable.”

“Human rights violations can happen to anyone, anywhere in the world. It takes all of us working in partnership to prevent future abuses,” said Assistant Director Luis Quesada of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “As a member of the Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center, the FBI works hand-in-hand with our law enforcement partners to relentlessly investigate some of the world’s most heinous crimes, including genocide, torture, war crimes and female genital mutilation. We look forward to many more years of continued collaboration to protect human rights, support victims and hold violators accountable.”

“The Department of State is proud to partner with the Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center in its relentless efforts to ensure that the United States does what it can to hold human rights violators accountable for their actions,” said U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice Beth Van Schaack. “Congratulations to DHS and its partners, who have made this center a globally recognized leader in the investigation and prosecution of human rights violators wherever they may hide. The United States will not be a safe haven for those who persecute others.”

Guest speakers included Luis Moreno Ocampo, Founding Chief Prosecutor, International Criminal Court and Former Deputy Prosecutor, Junta Trial in Argentina; The Honorable Beth Van Schaack, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice, U.S. Department of State; Eli Rosenbaum, Counselor for War Crimes Accountability, U.S. Department of Justice; Scott Johnston, Section Chief, Human Rights and Democracy, U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control; Joseph Zogby, Staff Director and Democratic Chief Counsel, U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary; Kimberly Stanton, Democratic Staff Director, Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, U.S. House of Representatives; and Fredy Peccerelli, Executive Director, Forensic Anthropology Foundation of Guatemala.

The Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Unit (HRVWCU) in conjunction with the Human Rights Violator Law Division, supports the identification, prosecution, denaturalization and removal of individuals who have committed human rights violations and war crimes including those who are known or suspected to have participated in persecution, war crimes, genocide, torture, extrajudicial killings, female genital mutilation and the use or recruitment of child soldiers. The HRVWCC leverages the expertise of a select group of agents, lawyers, intelligence and research specialists, historians and analysts who direct the agency’s broader enforcement efforts against these offenders.

In fiscal year 2022, the HRVWCC supported more than 160 investigations related to suspected human rights abusers or war criminals. The HRVWCC’s Human Rights Target Tracking Team also created over 550 lookout records on known and suspected human rights violators, helping prevent their entry into the United States. Its Global Magnitsky Investigative Support Team, in coordination with civil society and its partners at the Departments of Justice, State and Treasury worked to nominate individuals and entities engaged in human rights abuses and corruption. The HRVWCC conducted its seventh Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Advanced Investigative Training Course for special agents and attorneys; led a training on sexual and gender-based violence with its State Department colleagues; and provided training in support of Operation Limelight USA, an ongoing program designed to deter and increase public awareness about female genital mutilation.

Currently, HSI has more than 160 active investigations into suspected human rights violators and is pursuing more than 1,700 leads and removals cases involving suspected human rights violators from 95 different countries. Since 2003, the HRVWCC has issued more than 78,000 lookouts for individuals and stopped over 350 human rights violators and war crimes suspects from entering the United States. Learn more about the HRVWCC online.

Members of the public who have information about foreign nationals suspected of engaging in human rights abuses or war crimes are urged to call the HSI tip line at 866-347-2423. Callers may remain anonymous.

Updated: 09/08/2023