María José Sarrabayrouse Oliveira

The military coup of March 1976 in Argentina ruptured the prevailing institutional order, with the greater part of its repressive strategy built on clandestine practices and tactics (death, torture and disappearance) that sowed fear across large swathes of Argentine society. Simultaneously, the terrorist state established a parallel, de facto legal order through which it endeavoured to legitimise its actions. Among other social forces, the judicial branch played a pivotal role in this project of legitimisation. While conscious of the fact that many of those inside the justice system were also targets of oppression, I would like to argue that the dictatorship‘s approach was not to establish a new judicial authority but, rather, to build upon the existing institutional structure, remodelling it to suit its own interests and objectives. Based on an analysis of the criminal and administrative proceedings that together were known as the Case of the judicial morgue, this article aims to examine the ways in which the bodies of the detained-disappeared that entered the morgue during the dictatorship were handled, as well as the rationales and practices of the doctors and other employees who played a part in this process. Finally, it aims to reflect upon the traces left by judicial and administrative bureaucratic structures in relation to the crimes committed by the dictatorship, and on the legal strategies adopted by lawyers and the families of the victims.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Jose Manuel Varas Insunza

This article describes the operational practices of the city morgue in Santiago, Chile and their effects on the family members who come to claim the bodies of their loved ones. It explores the impact of the body‘s passage through the morgue on the observance of rituals surrounding death and mourning. An underlying conflict can be identified between the states partial appropriation of and interference with the body and intrinsic needs associated with the performance of funeral rites in accordance with cultural and religious precepts.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Magdalena Figueredo and Fabiana Larrobla

Between 1975 and 1979, thirty-one unidentified bodies bearing marks of torture appeared at various locations along Uruguays coastline. These bodies were material proof of the death flights implemented in neighbouring Argentina after the military coup. In Uruguay, in a general context of political crisis, the appearance of these anonymous cadavers first generated local terror and was then rapidly transformed into a traumatic event at the national level. This article focuses on the various reports established by Uruguayan police and mortuary services. It aims to show how,the administrative and funeral treatments given at that time to the dead bodies, buried anonymously (under the NN label) in local cemeteries, make visible some of the multiple complicities between the Uruguayan and Argentinean dictatorships in the broader framework of the Condor Plan. The repressive strategy implemented in Argentina through torture and forced disappearance was indeed echoed by the bureaucratic repressive strategy implemented in Uruguay through incomplete and false reports, aiming to make the NN disappear once again.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Keith Krause

In discussions of conflict, war and political violence, dead bodies count. Although the politics and practices associated with the collection of violent-death data are seldom subject to critical examination, they are crucial to how scholars and practitioners think about how and why conflict and violence erupt. Knowledge about conflict deaths – the who, what, where, when, why and how – is a form of expertise, created, disseminated and used by different agents. This article highlights the ways in which body counts are deployed as social facts and forms of knowledge that are used to shape and influence policies and practices associated with armed conflict. It traces the way in which conflict-death data emerged, and then examines critically some of the practices and assumptions of data collection to shed light on how claims to expertise are enacted and on how the public arena connects (or not) with scholarly conflict expertise.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Open Access (free)
Douglas H. Ubelaker, Anne Vega, Tony Platt and Cloé Drieu

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Open Access (free)
Élisabeth Anstett, Jean-Marc Dreyfus and Caroline Fournet

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Jeremy Sarkin

This article examines the ways in which missing persons have been dealt with, mainly in the former Yugoslavia, to show how the huge advances made in the search for, recovery and identification of those who disappeared is positively impacting on the ability of families to find their loved ones. The article surveys the advances made in dealing with the missing on a range of fronts, including the technical and forensic capacities. It examines some of the other developments that have occurred around the world with regard to the search for, recovery and identification of people and makes recommendations on how to make improvements to ensure that the rights of families around the world, as well as a range of other human rights, including truth and justice, are enhanced.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Marco Aurelio Guimarães, Raffaela Arrabaça Francisco, Martin Evison, Edna Sadayo Miazato Iwamura, Carlos Eduardo Palhares Machado, Ricardo Henrique Alves da Silva, Maria Eliana Castro Pinheiro, Diva Santana and Julie Alvina Guss Patrício

Exhumation may be defined as the legally sanctioned excavation and recovery of the remains of lawfully buried or – occasionally – cremated individuals, as distinct from forensic excavations of clandestinely buried remains conducted as part of a criminal investigation and from unlawful disinterment of human remains, commonly referred to as bodysnatching. The aim of this article is to review the role of exhumation – so defined – in the activities of CEMEL, the Medico-Legal Centre of the Ribeirão Preto Medical School-University of São Paulo, in international, regional and local collaborations. Exhumations form part of routine forensic anthropology casework; scientific research in physical and forensic anthropology; and forensic casework conducted in collaboration with the Brazilian Federal Police; and are carried out as part of humanitarian investigations into deaths associated with the civil–military dictatorship of 1964 to 1985. This article aims to offer a non-technical summary – with reference to international comparative information – of the role of exhumation in investigative and scientific work and to discuss developments in their historical and political context.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Jacques Gerstenkorn

This article describes the powerplay around the recent discovery (summer 2015) of eighteenth-century Jewish graves in the French city of Lyon. Prior to the French Revolution, Jews had no right to have their own cemeteries, and the corpses of the deceased were buried in the basement of the local catholic hospital, the Hôtel- Dieu. In recent years this centrally located building was completely renovated and converted into a retail complex selling luxury brands. The discovery and subsequent identification of the graves – and of some human remains – led to a complex confrontation between various actors: archaeologists, employed either by the municipality or by the state; religious authorities (mostly Lyons chief rabbi); the municipality itself; the private construction companies involved; direct descendants of some of the Jews buried in the hospital‘s basement; as well as the local media. The question of what to do with the graves took centre stage, and while exhumations were favoured by both archaeologists and the representatives of the families, the chief rabbi – supported by the construction companies – proved reluctant to exhume, for religious reasons. In the first part of his article the author details the origins of this Jewish funerary place and current knowledge about it. He then goes on to analyse what was at stake in the long negotiations, arguing that the memory of the Holocaust played a role in the attitude of many of the parties involved. By way of conclusion he considers the decision not to exhume the graves and elaborates on the reasons why this led to some dissatisfaction.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Melanie Klinkner

In the aftermath of conflict and gross human rights violations, victims have a right to know what happened to their loved ones. Such a right is compromised if mass graves are not adequately protected to preserve evidence, facilitate identification and repatriation of the dead and enable a full and effective investigation to be conducted. Despite guidelines for investigations of the missing, and legal obligations under international law, it is not expressly clear how these mass graves are best legally protected and by whom. This article asks why, to date, there are no unified mass-grave protection guidelines that could serve as a model for states, authorities or international bodies when faced with gross human rights violations or armed conflicts resulting in mass graves. The paper suggests a practical agenda for working towards a more comprehensive set of legal guidelines to protect mass graves.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal