International humanitarian law : the legal framework for humanitarian forensic action
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Forensic science international, Vol. 282, 2018, p. 184-194
In armed conflicts, death is not an exceptional occurrence, but becomes the rule and occurs on a daily basis. Dead bodies are sometimes despoiled, mutilated, abandoned without any funeral rite and without a decent burial. Unidentified remains may be counted by hundreds or thousands. As a result, families look for years for missing relatives, ignorant of the fate of their loved ones. International humanitarian law, also called the laws of war or the law of armed conflict, is an international law branch, which has been developed to regulate and, as far as possible, to humanize armed conflicts. It contains a number of clear and concrete obligations incumbent to belligerent parties on the management of dead bodies, which provide the legal framework for humanitarian forensic action. The purpose of this article is to present, in a simple and concise manner, these rules with a view to extrapolate some key legal principles, such as the obligation to respect the dignity of the dead or the right to know the fate of relatives, which shall guide anyone dealing with human remains.