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About the Section

Ensuring Accountability for Human Rights Violations and Extraterritorial Violent Crime

Where U.S. federal jurisdiction exists, HRSP seeks to prosecute human rights violators under the federal criminal statutes proscribing torture, war crimes, genocide, female genital mutilation, and recruitment or use of child soldiers. The Section also prosecutes human rights violators under other statutes as appropriate, including U.S. criminal and civil immigration and naturalization laws in order to revoke U.S. citizenship or other legal status and obtain criminal penalties as appropriate. Defendants in these cases include both participants in World War II-era Nazi-sponsored acts of persecution and persons who perpetrated more recent human rights violations. HRSP is home to the War Crimes Accountability Team,  created by the Attorney General in 2022 to centralize and strengthen the Justice Department’s ongoing work to hold accountable those who have committed war crimes and other atrocities in Ukraine in the wake of Russia’s unprovoked invasion and bring together the Department’s leading experts in investigations involving human rights abuses and war crimes and other atrocities; and provide wide-ranging technical assistance, including operational assistance and advice regarding criminal prosecutions, evidence collection, forensics, and relevant legal analysis. The team also plays an integral role in the Department’s ongoing investigations of potential war crimes over which the U.S. possesses jurisdiction, such as the killing and wounding of U.S. journalists covering Russian aggression in Ukraine.

In addition, HRSP prosecutes certain other cases of crimes of violence committed abroad, particularly crimes that fall under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (MEJA). In its MEJA enforcement work, HRSP coordinates and participates in investigations and prosecutions of individuals employed by or supporting United States military forces overseas who commit murder, sex crimes, and other federal felony offenses. Similarly, HRSP investigates and prosecutes cases involving violent crimes that fall under the Special Maritime and Territorial Jurisdiction of the United States.

Combatting the Dangers of Human Smuggling and Related Immigration Crimes

HRSP investigates and prosecutes complex immigration offenses that undermine the integrity of our nation's borders, endangering national security as well as the lives of smuggled persons themselves.  HRSP targets international criminal networks involved in smuggling of persons and trafficking fraudulent travel and identification documents. HRSP places particular emphasis on dismantling those international networks that terrorists and other criminals could exploit to enter the United States without detection, and those that pose serious humanitarian concerns. The office helps lead Joint Task Force Alpha (JTFA), an inter-agency partnership between DOJ and DHS that combines dedicated prosecutors, agents, and analysts with specialized expertise from across the country to build criminal cases against leaders, organizers, and facilitators of human smuggling and trafficking crimes. JTFA targets criminal networks operating south of the U.S. border that abuse, exploit, or endanger migrants being smuggled, pose national security threats, or have links to transnational organized crime.

Interagency and International Work

HRSP is part of a coordinated, interagency effort to deny safe haven in the United States to human rights violators.  HRSP works closely with the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State, among other agencies, to identify such individuals and prevent them from entering the United States.

HRSP participates in various domestic and international initiatives that pertain to its mission.  The Section works with other DOJ components and other federal agencies to enhance the security of the United States.  The Section is also active in various bilateral and multilateral fora, and it provides assistance to foreign governments and intergovernmental organizations as appropriate.

Updated August 21, 2023