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Mass grave protection for truth and justice

Mass grave protection for truth and justice

Mass graves are often a legacy of conflict and human rights abuses. As well as the need for survivors to know the truth about the fate of their loved ones and to receive their human remains to allow them to be buried and commemorated, there is a need to investigate and preserve mass grave evidence. To realise survivors’ rights to truth and justice, an effective protection regime for the maintenance and investigation of mass graves is needed. The Bournemouth Protocol on Mass Grave Protection and Investigation will help ensure truth and justice for survivor populations. 

About the project

Following conflict and gross human rights violations, victims have a right to know what happened to their loved ones and a right to justice. Across the world mass graves, often containing a multitude of human remains, are sites of human loss, suffering and unimaginable acts of cruelty.

There are compelling reasons for why mass graves need to be protected. They hold evidence that is important for the criminal investigations needed to bring perpetrators to justice. At the same time, the families of the dead have a need and right to know what happened to their loved ones. This requires identification and repatriation of the bodies.

The scale of the problem

sets of human remains from 94 graves were recovered from Srebrenica
mass graves have been recorded by the Mexican government and the National Human Rights Commission

The Bournemouth Protocol on Mass Grave Protection and Investigation

The project has developed a Protocol to improve practice in relation to safeguarding and investigating mass graves. It fills an important knowledge and practice gap by providing policy makers with reasoned legal principles to implement the effective operationalisation of mass grave protection. To help meet the needs of survivors and enhance the chance of achieving justice, in what are often highly politicised, sensitive and complex contexts, an academic-led approach, transcending institutional mandates, is vital.An accompanying commentary will ensure the reasons, justifications and discussions underpinning the Protocol are captured, providing a rich repository of deliberations to inform future research.

The Protocol can be viewed here.

Kathryne Bomberger

Kathryne Bomberger

Director-General, International Commission on Missing Persons

ICMP actively supports the development of guidelines on mass grave protection. It is delighted to be a project partner with BU, as the project can deliver valuable support to societies that are dealing with the legacy of large numbers of missing persons

Research project staff

Publications and resources

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