UN Special Rapporteur commends Bournemouth University Mass Grave Research

Dr Agnes Callamard, UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions suggests ‘technical standards are needed to help strengthen protection and preservation of mass grave sites’ and goes on to commend the efforts currently underway at Bournemouth University to produce such Guidelines [para 65]. Her report, presented to the UN on 27 October 2020, adopts the definition of mass graves offered by Klinkner and Smith in the forthcoming Bournemouth Protocol on Mass Grave Protection and Investigation [para 12].

In her report Dr Callamard stresses the importance of respectful, indiscriminate and dignified handling of human remains from mass grave sites. The AHRC funded Mass Grave Protection for Truth & Justice Project investigates how best to safeguard, protect and investigate mass graves to ensure truth and justice for survivor populations. Research by BU scholars Klinkner, Davis and Smith in relation to mass graves, international criminal investigations, and the right to the truth is referenced seven times in the report.

Mass grave investigation research has a tradition at Bournemouth University. In 2008, a publication directed by scholars at Bournemouth University presented a first compilation of the experiences and lessons learned from the scientific investigation of mass graves. The Bournemouth Protocol, due to be published before the end of 2020, will offer a much needed, original instrument combining international law (international human rights law, international humanitarian law and international criminal law) governing the protection and investigation of mass graves with practical consideration and ramifications for stakeholders on the ground that seek to protect, manage and, where possible, investigate those sites.