Human remains: European legislative perspective on the limit between forensic and archaeological jurisdiction with special regard to war graves

Main Article Content

Arianna Vanni

Keywords

Mass grave, Recovery, Chronological boundary, Reburial

Abstract

The definition of the jurisdiction of human remains from mass graves related to war crimes, committed in Europe during the two World Wars and civil wars, is to be considered a contemporary topic because of the still existing heterogeneous European legal situation and undefined delineation of pertinences. The excavation of these burial sites is complex mainly because of the ethical issues hidden behind the treatment of human remains, especially those concerning violations of human rights, and the concurrent need for both forensic competencies and archaeological-anthropological ones that result in different handling practices adopted by each country.


Since there are no standardized and recognized protocols regarding the excavation of mass graves, there is also a difference in the chronological limits for a burial to be defined of forensic interest/competence, opening an investigation to prosecute the guilty parties, or of historical-archaeological one, collecting data to evaluate the bio-demographic characteristics of a population.


This review of the literature aims to briefly summarize three key points for each state: the existence of a law explicating a chronological threshold between forensic and archaeological jurisdiction, the related pertinence of the excavation of human remains and the establishment of regulations respecting the reburial of human remains.

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