Bournemouth University (BU) and the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) have launched a 21-month research project to develop mass grave protection guidelines.
The guidelines will seek to protect the integrity of mass graves while they are being examined, and will look to support survivors of missing persons and enhance possibilities for securing justice by protecting forensic evidence and improving the likelihood of identification of bodies.
The project has been funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and is being led by BU’s Dr Melanie Klinkner, a Principal Academic in International Law.
She said, “Mass graves are often a legacy of conflict and human rights abuses. An overwhelming need of the survivors is to know the truth about the fate of their loved ones, and to receive their human remains in order to facilitate burial and commemoration rituals. Similarly, investigation and preservation of mass grave evidence is required to offer transparency, redress and end impunity.”
The guidelines will serve as a model for countries, aid organisations, international agencies and authorities when faced with gross human rights violations or armed conflicts resulting in mass graves.
Dr Klinkner continued, “The research project is driven by the overarching research question: How can mass graves be protected to safeguard truth and justice for survivors? The project will develop mass grave protection guidelines to improve practice in relation to safeguarding and investigating mass graves.
“Two core outcomes are planned; guidelines on how to protect mass graves; and accompanying commentary where the reasons and justifications underpinning the guidelines are captured.”
The ICMP is an international organisation, active in over 40 countries that has supported large numbers of missing persons cases as a result of natural and man-made disasters, wars, widespread human rights abuses, organised crime and other causes. Part of its mandate is to locate and identify missing persons, including from mass graves, fostering the involvement of civil society, providing technical assistance and building institutional capacity.
The research project will seek to make their jobs easier, and support countries and aid organisations to adhere to the same set of guidelines for mass grave protection and excavation to ensure the integrity of evidence found and increase the likelihood of identification in mass grave instances.
For more information about the project, or the work of the ICMP, visit: https://www.icmp.int/