The state policy of enforced disappearances in Argentina, planned and implemented during the military dictatorship of 1976-1983, still has a striking effect: in the absence of any corpses of the disappeared, the families seek the dead among the living. Their quest through the law embodies the victims who were 'disappeared' and thereby placed outside of the law. Argentina is an extraordinary laboratory in the domain of struggle against impunity and of 'restoration of the truth', and constitutes a useful paradigm in the context of reflection on the corpses of mass violence. At Argentina's initiative, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights adopted on 20 April 2005 the first resolution on the right to the truth. The state duty is precisely expressed in the truth hearings and the procedures for mandatory recovery of the identity of stolen children.
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This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book shows the undeniable contribution and the limits of the biopower theory in the understanding of dead bodies en masse. It talks about the fact that criminology has for so long ignored mass crime, even though the link between the corpse and the criminal is one of the fundamentals of the discipline. The book addresses the issue of the practical and symbolic treatment of corpses by societies affected by mass violence. It shows how working ideologies along with historical legacy and geographical landscapes determined the disposal of the bodies. The book examines the simultaneously diplomatic and medicolegal nature of the activities of the French Search Commission for Corpses of Deportees in Germany. It also draws on German archives to describe the various modalities of treatment of corpses in Croatia.