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Human rights, human remains: forensic humanitarianism and the human rights of the dead

Moon, Claire ORCID: 0000-0003-2884-7687 (2014) Human rights, human remains: forensic humanitarianism and the human rights of the dead. International Social Science Journal, 65 (215-216). 49 - 63. ISSN 0020-8701

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Identification Number: 10.1111/issj.12071


This article has three parts. First, it identifies, defines and characterises a distinctive trend in modern humanitarianism: that of ‘forensic humanitarianism’. Forensic humanitarianism is often deployed in the wake of atrocity to answer two questions: who are the dead, and how were they killed? These questions have been addressed in diverse contexts with the aim of establishing accountability for atrocities and identifying and returning the dead to their families. Examples include the investigation of the crimes of Argentina's junta, the trial for genocide of Guatemala's former President Rios Montt, the return of human remains to families of the dead in the former-Yugoslavia, and the exhumation of clandestine civil war graves in Spain. Forensic humanitarianism is distinguished by two imperatives that are characteristic of humanitarianism more broadly: adjudicative and ameliorative. These imperatives manifest in the ways in which forensic humanitarianism plays a critical role in justice for atrocity and addresses human suffering. Second, the article historicises the emergence of forensic humanitarianism, showing that it has been shaped by the conjunction of four particular and related histories: humanitarian, legal, political and scientific. Third, and finally, the article asks whether, as a consequence of the practice of forensic humanitarianism, we can argue that the dead, now, can be understood to have human rights

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2014 UNESCO
Divisions: Sociology
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
K Law > K Law (General)
Date Deposited: 26 Jan 2018 16:25
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 02:14

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