What Remains? Human Rights After Death
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This chapter is concerned with the human rights of the deceased victims of mass atrocity. It addresses these rights in the context of forensic anthropological work to establish the individual and collective identities of the victims. This work became historically and politically significant in the later decades of the 20th century in the context of attempts to determine the numbers, identities, and cause of death of victims of state crimes and violent conflict, return their bodies to family members, and contribute evidence to legal trials for crimes such as crimes against humanity, genocide, torture, and enforced disappearance. Key amongst these efforts were attempts to recover and establish the identities of the dead who were subjected to torture and enforced disappearance in Argentina in the mid-1980s, and ongoing efforts to return human remains to families of the dead in the former-Yugoslavia following the wars of the 1990s. Our moral obligations to the dead in these contexts beg a profound and comprehensive ethical approach. With this in mind, this chapter addresses two key questions: do these dead have human rights? And if so, which specific rights do they have? This chapter puts forward some provisional lines of enquiry and argumentation for consideration. It provides resources and evidence—historical, legal, and forensic—in support of such rights, and makes several suggestions regarding which rights might be developed with respect to the dead.
I am very grateful to Kirsty Squires and Nick Márquez-Grant for their generous and thoughtful help during the writing process. I would especially like to thank Nick Márquez-Grant for his suggestions as to how the preservation of the dignity of human remains might translate further into forensic practice. I am also grateful to Ricardo Bravo (Héctor Ricardo Bravo Santillán) at the Centro de Docencia y Económicas (CIDE), Aguascalientes, México, for his comments on an earlier version of my argument, presented at CIDE in March 2018.
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