This article aims to shed light on the post-mortem practices for
Palestinian dead bodies when there is suspicion of human rights violations by
Israeli military forces. By focusing on the case of Omran Abu Hamdieh from
Al-Khalil (Hebron), the article explores the interactions between Palestinian
social-institutional agents, Israeli military forces and international
medico-legal agents. Drawing on ethnographic and archival data, the article
explores how the intersectionality between the various controlling powers is
inscribed over the Palestinian dead bodies and structures their death rites. The
article claims that inviting foreign medico-legal experts in the Palestinian
context could reveal the true death story and the human rights violations, but
also reaffirms the sovereignty of the Israeli military forces over the
Palestinian dead and lived bodies.
In contemporary forensic medicine, in India, the label of complete autopsy applies to a
whole range of post-mortem examinations which can present consid- erable differences in
view of the intellectual resources, time, personnel and material means they involve. From
various sources available in India and elsewhere, stems the idea that, whatever the type
of case and its apparent obviousness, a complete autopsy implies opening the abdomen, the
thorax and the skull and dissecting the organs they contain. Since the nineteenth century,
procedural approaches of complete autopsies have competed with a practical sense of
completeness which requires doctors to think their cases according to their history.
Relying on two case studies observed in the frame of an ethnographic study of eleven
months in medical colleges of North India, the article suggests that the practical
completeness of autopsies is attained when all aspects of the history of the case are made
sense of with regard to the observation of the body. Whereas certain autopsies are
considered obvious and imply a reduced amount of time in the autopsy room, certain others
imply successive redefinitions of what complete implies and the realisation of certain
actions which would not have been performed otherwise.
ding to the German killers’ official statistics) in September 1941. A
nearby dam gave way in the late 1960s, and the subsequent flooding unearthed hundreds of bodies that were then reinterred without any attempt at identification.6 Other cases may be cited, such as
the graves of the Dachau concentration camp, discovered by chance
during excavation work for the construction of a road in 1948. The
unearthed bodies were then identified by means of the forensicmedicine of the time.7 There are even cases where there has been
the discovery and identification of
of knowledge and policies of public health. Another development
was the emergence of forensicmedicine, which – with great disparities – became part and parcel of the state procedures surrounding
dead bodies, with particular importance for the enforcement of state
criminal law. In regard to (necro-political aspects of) sovereignty,
forensicmedicine and the associated state laws and procedures are
essential to upholding the state’s claim to a monopoly of legitimate
force and the elimination of killing with impunity.
Thus, on this background it is not
first time in the history of forensicmedicine that
the needs of law would serve to reify, however inadvertently, the clinical practitioner’s claims to expertise.
1 For a comprehensive study of the McNaughtan trial and its political context,
see Richard Moran, Knowing Right From Wrong: the Insanity Defense of Daniel
McNaughtan (New York: Free Press, 1981).
2 Nigel D. Walker, Crime and Insanity in England, vol. 1: the Historical Perspective
(Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1968).
3 According to John Henry Wigmore, the witness must speak as a knower, not a
The forensic and political lives of secondary mass graves in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Admir Jugo and Sari Wastell
A. Mašović, ‘Zalazje je osmadeseta masovna grobnica ubijenih
Srebreničana’ (Zalazje is the eightieth mass grave of those killed in
Srebrenica), Dnevni Avaz, 4 December 2009, 5.
M. Vennemeyer, ‘An analysis of linkages between robbed primary graves
and secondary graves related to Srebrenica missing’, presented at 21st
International Meeting on ForensicMedicine Alpe-Adria-Pannonia,
Sarajevo, 30 May–2 June 2012.
Janc, ‘Srebrenica investigation’.
US Naval Criminal Investigative Service, ‘International Criminal
Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia
at the University of Cape Town in 1950, Rogoff died in Israel in 2013.
After serving as Assistant Director of Laboratory Services, and then as
Director of the Medical Research Laboratories of the Kenya Ministry of
Health, from 1960 to 1971, during which time he helped establish forensicmedicine, Rogoff moved to Israel. There he altered the spelling of his
name to Maurice Rogov and took on scientific work with the government. His most famous cases included the forensic identification of the
The unburied victims of the Mau Mau Rebellion 33
-finding forced psychiatrists like KrafftEbing to think more deeply about the evidentiary value of their sources.
The same concern with testimony and truth-finding also made the medical
case study attractive to a range of disciplines and fields of knowledge that
relied on the spoken and written word, such as psychoanalysis and litera
ture. The fact that medical interest in sexuality in the nineteenth century
was ‘intrinsically linked to forensicmedicine’ – as Harry Oosterhuis
has forcefully stated – meant, furthermore, that the human case study
was situated at the
The French search mission for the corpses of deportees in Germany, 1946–58
la Société d’Anthropologie de Paris, 9:9–2 (1982), pp. 103–7.
I consulted the copies of 254 forms provided for exhumation requests
in Bergen-Belsen and I was struck by the scarcity of information. For
example, very few of the forms had been completed by dentists.
Vallois et al., ‘Données anthropologiques’, p. 68.
Were these doctors trained in forensicmedicine under the Nazi
Vallois et al., ‘Données anthropologiques’, p. 68.
Ibid., p. 80.
See a description of the controversy that was finally closed in 1969 in
J.-M. Dreyfus, ‘Conflits de mémoires
in 1914–15, Germany’s new penal code rested ‘to no small extent upon the
work of the I.K.V.’ 19
Wulffen’s encounter with Liszt’s modern school of criminology in
1903 had a palpable effect on his writings, and forms the beginning of
Wulffen’s new appreciation of the case study genre, a genre which had
already defined his everyday work as a state prosecutor for several years.
The passion and playfulness that Wulffen displayed in his engagement
with this genre were mediated through forensicmedicine and shaped by
his humanistic education as well as his literary