Among the Anonymous Dead:
International Forensic Investigations in Rwanda and Bosnia-Hercegovina
Erin Jessee Simon Fraser University
In the aftermath of mass atrocities in Rwanda and Bosnia-Hercegovina in the early 1990s, the international criminal tribunals for Rwanda and the Former Yugoslavia commissioned international forensic investigations. Yet, from the very beginning, the exhumations of mass graves by international forensic experts have been fraught by controversy and conflicting objectives. In Rwanda, exhumations were short-lived due to hostility from the ruling political party and popular dissatisfaction. In Bosnia-Hercegovina, the exhumations transformed from a legal exercise (amassing physical evidence for criminal prosecutions) to a purely humanitarian one (helping Bosnians locate, identify and repatriate missing victims of the war using non-scientific exhumations). This presentation will highlight the various methodological, legal and humanitarian challenges surrounding these international forensic investigations with emphasis on the particular political and cultural climate in Rwanda and Bosnia-Hercegovina in the aftermath of mass human rights violations.
Erin Jessee is an FQRSC Postdoctoral Fellow at the School for International Studies at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. She is an experienced forensic archaeologist and oral historian, and has conducted extensive fieldwork among survivors, ex-combatants and perpetrators of the Rwandan and Bosnian genocides. She is currently adapting her doctoral dissertation "Inscribed Intent: Genocidal Symbolic Violence and Social Death in the Aftermath of the Rwandan and Bosnian Genocides" into a book manuscript, as well as preparing to return to Rwanda in the summer 2011 to begin a new research project examining the legal and humanitarian shortcomings of the international forensic investigations conducted in Kibuye and Kigali in 1996.