Posts By / mklinkner

The Bournemouth Protocol on Mass Grave Protection and Investigation goes live on Human Rights Day

Mass graves contain evidence that is essential to the effective realisation of truth, justice and perpetrator accountability. Effective rules and procedures for the protection, maintenance and investigation of mass graves are therefore vital. The Bournemouth Protocol on Mass Grave Protection and Investigation is defining standards on this crucial issue.

In her foreword, Her Majesty Queen Noor, Commissioner of the International Commission on Missing Persons, reminds readers of this crucial “premise that standards of investigation and protection applied to mass graves must support efforts to establish the truth about what happened and facilitate the pursuit of justice.” UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard echoes this sentiment, admonishing past handling of mass graves that might be “inappropriate, discriminatory or, quite simply, indifferent. This has to stop. We can and must do far better and more, to respect and protect the diverse interests and concerns of families, survivors, communities and societies. It is our shared duty to our common humanity.”

The Protocol is anchored in international law to help meet those interests and needs. Mass graves from their discovery through to commemoration efforts deserve protection and investigation. Such efforts involve extensive engagement: From the legal, investigative and scientific disciplines to community liaison and family support, each with their own rules and standards of professional practice, they all have to come together for respectful, indiscriminate and dignified handling of mass graves and human remains.

The Protocol is inspired by, and greatly indebted, to the many participants and reviewers who generously shared their knowledge, time and expertise. Special thanks are owed to the AHRC for funding the project, the International Commission on Missing Persons, project partner and supporter of the Protocol and the wonderful support shown by the Steering Group to the project (including BU’s Prof Dinusha Mendis and Prof Roger Brownsword), student helpers Nan Sheppard, Samantha De Simone and Luke Nwibo Eda, the Faculty of Media & Communication’s Marketing Team and the Design Unit for its patient formatting, editing and revising.

The Bournemouth Protocol on Mass Grave Protection and Investigation will enable greater cooperation among actors and organisations in a broad array of settings and ensure that mass graves and sites where horrific violence and human loss have occurred are effectively protected and investigated to standards that are lawful and respectful.

Dr Melanie Klinkner & Dr Ellie Smith

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.

Public Health, Mental Health and Mass Atrocity Prevention

On 9th – 10th June, Dr Ellie Smith attended the “Public Health, Mental Health and Mass Atrocity Prevention” workshop. The event was held in New York, and was co-hosted by the Cardozo Law Institute in Holocaust and Human Rights and the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation.

The aim of the workshop was to bring together a group of practitioners and academics with particular experience of working with conflict and trauma within the fields of psychology, psychiatry, public health and law, in order to explore the role of public and mental health strategies and approaches in mass atrocity prevention. The event was designed to encourage the exchange of ideas between intellectual fields and to begin to build a body of knowledge on the subject, intended to culminate in an edited volume. Dr Smith was presenting her work on the concept of “Justice” as viewed from the perspective of atrocity survivors, and in particular, the psychological notion of a “sense of justice”, including its constituent elements.

She is currently engaged as a Researcher with Bournemouth University on the AHRC-funded project “Mass Grave Protection for Truth and Justice”, led by Dr Melanie Klinkner @GraveProtection

‘Re-Imagining Conflict-Transformation: Making Memory Meaningful’ – A one-day Workshop on 6th May 2016

This one-day workshop explores interdisciplinary and innovative approaches to dealing with a country’s troubled past through memorialisation as a key aspect of transitional justice. It is organised by the Conflict Transformation Studies team as part of the Centre for Conflict, Rule of Law and Society (Bournemouth University).
Location: Executive Business Centre (7th Floor, EB706), 89 Holdenhurst Road, Bournemouth, BH8 8EB


9.00 Arrival and registration

9.30 Introduction and Welcome by Melanie Klinkner and Welcome by Sascha Bachmann (Director of the Centre for Conflict, Rule of Law and Society)

9.40 Key Note Address by Nora Ahmetaj, Co-founder of the Centre for Research, Documentation and Publication (Kosovo): ‘Critical approaches to ‘reconciliation’ and transitional justice in Kosovo’s post-war memory’

10.40 Coffee Break

11.00 Panel 1: Chair Avital Biran

Ellie Smith, Newcastle University Forum for Human Rights and Social Justice: ‘Commemoration and Memory: specific justice needs of victims in the aftermath of international crimes and gross violations’

Robyn Leslie, King’s College London: ‘Remember Marikana: apportioning blame or accepting complicity?’

Nina Fischer, University of Edinburgh: ‘National Memory of Trauma and the Perpetuation of Conflict: Israel/Palestine’

12.30 Lunch

13.15 Panel 2: Chair Melanie Klinkner

Denisa Kostovicova, London School of Economics: ‘War Crimes Talk: Transitional Justice and Communication’

Hanna Kienzler, School of Social Science and Public Policy, King’s College (London): ‘Embodied struggles for societal change’

Linda Gusia, University of Prishtina: ‘Breaking the Silence – Recognition of the survivors of wartime sexual violence in Kosovo’

Laura Grace and Stephanie Schwandner-Sievers, Bournemouth University: ‘Quests into post-war Kosovo’s memoryscapes: the interdisciplinary, anthropological and co-creative challenges of BU’s fusion project for a serious game’

15.15 Coffee Break

15.45 Roundtable discussion

What and/or who can make transitional justice initiatives work? How can contested memories be integrated to support conflict transformation? Reflections and insights from past, present and towards the future. Facilitated by Stephanie Schwandner-Sievers and Melanie Klinkner (Bournemouth University).

Confirmed panel Members include:

Nora Ahmetaj (Centre for Research, Documentation and Publication),

Nina Fischer (University of Edinburgh),

Eric Gordy (University College London),

Hanna Kienzler (King’s College London),

Denisa Kostovicova (London School of Economics), and

Christian Pfeifer (Forum Civil Peace Service).

17.00 Closing remarks

Tabled Paper(s): Vjollca Krasniqi, University of Prishtina: ‘War, Law, and Justice in Kosovo’.

Contact: For more information, please contact the organisers Melanie Klinkner ( or Stephanie Schwandner-Sievers ( For urgent matters on the day, please contact Reception at the Executive Business Centre on 01202 968003

Registration: this event is free of charge. However, spaces are limited. For participation please register by 27 April 2016 with the organisers.