MaGMap

The benefits and risks of mass grave mapping

MaGMap: Mass Grave Mapping

This Leverhulme Trust-funded project will explore where, when and under what circumstances the mapping of mass graves should be avoided or kept secret so that protection is not jeopardised.

Mass graves are sites of tremendous human suffering. The MaGMap project urgently responds to a significant knowledge and practice gap in relation to mass grave documentation and mapping. It asks: would mass grave mapping expose or protect grave sites and the evidence they contain?

MaGMap Official Logo

The return of loved ones to families for dignified commemoration, together with the realisation of justice for victims, their families and affected communities is vital.Yet, at present, there is no system of global record keeping of the number of mass graves, nor of the victims in them.

Moreover, there is no guidance available to those engaged in ad hoc mapping processes to indicate whether and under what circumstances mass grave sites should be recorded in open source materials.

Addressing the gap in guidance 

The aim of this project is to examine where, when and under what circumstances mapping of mass graves should be avoided or kept secret so that protection is not jeopardised.

Led by the authors of the international standard-setting Bournemouth Protocol on Mass Grave Protection and Investigation, this project provides invaluable, fact-based guidance on the benefits and risks of open source mass grave mapping.

An illustration of investigators in a mass grave

Its core output is a matrix, a tool to assist the decision-making process(es) in relation to mass grave mapping, as an essential first step towards investigation.

Through this, the project will enhance protection of mass grave sites, enabling the preservation of evidence crucial for criminal investigation, and/or information that is vital to the effective identification and repatriation of mortal remains.

At a fundamental level, the project critically evaluates the underlying assumptions of mapping in human rights contexts, thereby transcending disciplinary boundaries. 

Her Majesty Queen Noor

Commissioner of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), in the foreword to the Bournemouth Protocol

Mass graves and sites where horrific violence and human loss have occurred must be protected... We owe this to the victims’ families, and to society as a whole.

Open Source Monitoring of Mass Graves in Ukraine

Part of MaGMap includes a mass grave open source, real-time data collation project, kickstarted by students and now taken forward by project team members as a pilot for comparison with other country contexts.

Open source cataloguing and monitoring of reported mass graves in Ukraine will help to inform MaGMap’s outputs.

Related content: