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Archaeologies

, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp 414–428 | Cite as

Archaeology and the Forensic Investigation of Recent Mass Graves: Ethical Issues for a New Practice of Archaeology

  • Caroline Steele
Review

Abstract

The close of World War II marked the advent of international human rights legislation and the prosecution of individuals for human rights crimes, by both nation states and international tribunals. The prosecution at such trials often presents evidence from forensically excavated mass graves. Forensic archaeology is a new and expanding field and as such has yet to establish a uniform code of ethics, standard operating procedures, and transparency. In addition, there are complex and conflicting agendas of mass grave excavation. Mass grave investigation in Iraq since the 2003 American-led invasion is presented as a case in point.

Key words

Forensic archaeology Mass graves Iraq 

Résumé

La fin de la seconde guerre mondiale a marqué l’avènement international de la poursuite judiciaire des individus ayant commis des crimes de guerre et d’une législation des droits de l’homme à la fois de la part des nations et des tribunaux internationaux. La poursuite judiciaire engagée à souvent fourni la preuve de la présence, par excavation, de tombes de masse. L’archéologie des expertises médico-légales est devenue un champ nouveau en pleine expansion, et, en tant que tel, a établi un code éthique généralisé, ainsi que des procédures standard et de transparence. De plus, il existe des agendas complexes et conflictuels de tombes de masse découvertes par excavation. Ceci s’applique à l’Irak depuis 2003 où l’invasion menée par les. américains est sujette à enquête.

Resumen

El fin de la Segunda Guerra Mundial marcó la aparición de una legislación internacional de derechos humanos y los juicios contra los acusados de crímenes contra los derechos humanos, tanto por parte de los estados nacionales como los tribunales internacionales. En los procesos de estos juicios a menudo se presentaban pruebas de la existencia de fosas comunes excavadas por forenses. La arqueología forense es una nueva disciplina en crecimiento y por ello, aún no ha establecido un código ético uniforme, procesos de funcionamiento estándar ni transparencia. Asimismo, hay programas complejos y conflictivos de excavación en fosa comunes. La investigación de fosas comunes en Irak desde la invasión del 2003 encabezada por EE.UU. se presenta como un caso paradigmático.

Notes

Acknowledgements

The author would like to thank Susan Pollock, Reinhard Bernbeck and Maresi Starzmann, as well as the anonymous reviewers for their comments and suggestions.

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Copyright information

© World Archaeological Congress 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.TunbridgeUSA

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