In 2008, HSI created the Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center (HRVWCC). Led by HSI, the HRVWCC leverages the knowledge and expertise of a select group of special agents, attorneys, intelligence analysts, criminal research specialists and historians. These experts work collaboratively to prevent the United States from becoming a safe haven for individuals who engage in the commission of war crimes, genocide, torture and other forms of serious human rights violations from conflicts around the globe. The HRVWCC is the only U.S. government entity focused entirely on investigating these global atrocities.
The HRVWCC comprises the following agencies and components:
- ICE Office of the Principal Legal Advisor, Human Rights Violators Law Division
- ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations
- DHS, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
- DHS, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
- FBI, International Human Rights Unit
- U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Criminal Division, Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section (HRSP)
- DOJ’s Civil Division, Office of Immigration Litigation
- U.S. Department of State’s (DOS) Bureau of Consular Affairs
- DOS’ Diplomatic Security Service
- U.S. Department of Defense, Department of the Army Criminal Investigation Division, Special Investigations Field Office
The HRVWCC focuses on its mission in two ways: (1) by identifying, investigating, prosecuting, and removing human rights violators and war criminals found within the jurisdiction of the United States; and (2) by preventing entry into the United States of known or suspected human rights violators and war criminals. The HRVWCC also works with foreign law enforcement and international partners and tribunals to further global accountability. HSI team members, joined by our HRVWCC partners, are organized into regional support teams (RST) that cover the geographic areas of the Americas, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.
The HRVWCC has two specialized investigative support teams (IST) whose reach is not limited to a specific geographical area. The first is the Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) investigative support team which works closely with federal, state, and foreign law enforcement partners, as well as child protective officials, non-profit organizations, medical and educational professionals, and FGM/C survivors, to protect women and girls by investigating cases of FGM/C and conducting outreach and training to end the practice. FGM/C is a human rights abuse, a form of gender-based violence, and, when performed on children, a form of child abuse. It is against federal law (18 U.S.C. § 116) to perform FGM/C in the United States on a girl under the age of 18, or for the parent, caretaker, or guardian of a girl under the age of 18 to facilitate or consent to FGM/C being performed on her. It is also against the law to send or attempt to send a minor outside the United States for FGM/C to be performed.
The second IST is the HRVWCC’s Global Magnitsky Investigative Support Team (GloMag IST), which was created in 2018, following the issuance of Executive Order (E.O.) 13818, “Blocking the Property of Persons Involved in Serious Human Rights Abuse or Corruption.” E.O. 13818 builds upon and implements the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, and targets perpetrators of corruption and serious human rights abuse. The GloMag IST identifies and nominates individuals and/or entities for Global Magnitsky sanctions as part of an inter-agency process that includes the Departments of Treasury, Justice, and State. The team also produces investigative referrals for HSI field offices when there is a potential for criminal, civil or administrative action.
The HRVWCC is also home to HSI’s Human Rights Target Tracking Team (HRT3), which is comprised of criminal research specialists and intelligence analysts. These specialists are dedicated to identifying suspected human rights violators and war criminals abroad and to preventing their entry into the United States. The HRVWCC has worked closely with its CBP and DOS partners to identify known or suspected human rights violators and to place lookouts on them in appropriate databases. These records permit consular officers overseas, CBP officers at United States’ ports of entry, and USCIS officers adjudicating benefit applications with relevant information to assist them in determining whether an individual should be permitted to enter the United States.
HSI is committed to its mission and the role it and the HRVWCC plays in broader efforts for accountability. HSI currently has more than 160 active human rights investigations and is handling more than 1,700 human rights-related leads involving suspects from approximately 95 countries, primarily in Central and South America, the Balkans, and Africa. Since 2003, HSI has arrested more than 480 individuals for human rights-related violations under various criminal and/or immigration statutes. It has issued more than 78,000 lookouts for individuals suspected of involvement in human rights abuses and stopped over 350 human rights violators and war criminal suspects from entering the U.S.