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Forensic Anthropology and the Most Probable Cause of Death in Cases of Violations Against International Humanitarian Law: An Example From Bosnia and Herzegovina

NCJ Number
Journal of Forensic Sciences Volume: 51 Issue: 1 Dated: January 2006 Pages: 103-108
Jose Pablo Baraybar M.Sc.; Marek Gasior M.D.
Date Published
January 2006
6 pages
This paper describes the materials and methods as well as the findings of the investigations into the mechanisms of injury and probable causes of death for 298 individuals (mostly male) whose bodies were recovered from an open cast mine in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
These investigations were conducted in connection with the case against Radoslav Brdjanin, who was charged before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia with genocide, crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, and violations of the laws and customs of war. These crimes were alleged to have occurred during the "ethnic cleansing" of Northwestern Bosnia in 1992. The remains of the 298 individuals were partially or fully skeletonized, with separated and incomplete body parts. There was also potential for postmortem damage, either at burial or in removing the bodies from the primary to the secondary grave site. Identification of the mechanisms of injury and determination of the most probable cause of death were based on assessments of initially lethal or lethal-if-untreated injuries that were revealed from bone analysis. Forensic anthropologists and pathologists cooperated in determining that at least 38.9 percent of the individuals had gunshot wounds and may have died as a result. The description of the materials and methods used in these investigations provides an example of a multidisciplinary approach to investigating alleged violations of international humanitarian law. It also shows how useful evidence can be obtained despite a large number of cases and technological limitations. 11 figures and 26 references