This article argues that certain legal duties of states involved in armed conflicts confer legal and moral rights on both the combatants and their families. The combatant is entitled to the right to be identified and buried, and the families are entitled, not only to receive information about the treatment of their dead relatives, but also to make decisions in this regard. These decisions relate to the rituals of burial and cremation and even the place of burial, which in some cases implies a right to demand repatriation of remains. The arguments are based on both ethical and legal grounds. Yet, apart from the right to be buried in a dignified way, rights regarding the nature and place of burial are not absolute. They can be limited according to a variety of considerations, including State policies and interests. The article also refers to the special case of dead combatants’ remains held by non-state actors that do not respect international law prescriptions regarding the dead. Under these circumstances, families have a stronger case to demand repatriation of remains as this would be the only way to secure the core right of the combatant to be respectfully buried.
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