The military coup of March 1976 in Argentina ruptured the prevailing institutional order,
with the greater part of its repressive strategy built on clandestine practices and
tactics (death, torture and disappearance) that sowed fear across large swathes of
Argentine society. Simultaneously, the terrorist state established a parallel, de facto
legal order through which it endeavoured to legitimise its actions. Among other social
forces, the judicial branch played a pivotal role in this project of legitimisation. While
conscious of the fact that many of those inside the justice system were also targets of
oppression, I would like to argue that the dictatorship‘s approach was not to establish a
new judicial authority but, rather, to build upon the existing institutional structure,
remodelling it to suit its own interests and objectives. Based on an analysis of the
criminal and administrative proceedings that together were known as the Case of the
judicial morgue, this article aims to examine the ways in which the bodies of the
detained-disappeared that entered the morgue during the dictatorship were handled, as well
as the rationales and practices of the doctors and other employees who played a part in
this process. Finally, it aims to reflect upon the traces left by judicial and
administrative bureaucratic structures in relation to the crimes committed by the
dictatorship, and on the legal strategies adopted by lawyers and the families of the
This article focuses on the judicial consideration of the scientific analysis of the Tomašica mass grave, in the Prijedor municipality of Republika Srpska in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Often referred to as the largest mass grave in Europe since the Second World War, this grave was fully discovered in September 2013 and the scientific evidence gathered was included in the prosecution of Ratko Mladić before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. Based on the exhaustive analysis of all the publicly available trial transcripts, this article presents how the Tomašica evidence proved symptomatic of the way in which forensic sciences and international criminal justice intertwine and of the impact of the former over the latter on the admissibility of evidence, the conduct of proceedings and the qualification of the crimes perpetrated.
Debates on the relevance of repatriation of indigenous human remains are water under the bridge today. Yet, a genuine will for dialogue to work through colonial violence is found lacking in the European public sphere. Looking at local remembrance of the Majimaji War (1905–7) in the south of Tanzania and a German–Tanzanian theatre production, it seems that the spectre of colonial headhunting stands at the heart of claims for repatriation and acknowledgement of this anti-colonial movement. The missing head of Ngoni leader Songea Mbano haunts the future of German–Tanzanian relations in heritage and culture. By staging the act of post-mortem dismemberment and foregrounding the perspective of descendants, the theatre production Maji Maji Flava offers an honest proposal for dealing with stories of sheer colonial violence in transnational memory.
Between 2012 and 2017, at the Ł-section of Warsaw’s Powązki Military Cemetery, or ‘Łączka’, the Polish Institute of National Remembrance exhumed a mass grave containing the remains of post-war anti-communist resistance fighters. Being referred to as the ‘cursed soldiers’, these fighters have become key figures in post-2015 Polish memory politics. In this article we focus on the role of the volunteers at these exhumations in the production of the ‘cursed soldiers’ memory. Following the idea of community archaeology as a civil society-building practice, the observed processes of sacralisation and militarisation show how the exhumations create a community of memory that promotes the core values of the currently governing national-conservative PiS party. We found that tropes related to forensic research and typically identified with cosmopolitan memory paradigms are used within a generally nationalist and antagonistic memory framework.