Identifying and enhancing forensic science skills in the investigation and prosecution of war criminals within international proceedings

Mason, Natalie Jane (2013) Identifying and enhancing forensic science skills in the investigation and prosecution of war criminals within international proceedings. Masters thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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The use of forensic science to establish the truth in domestic criminal investigations has developed considerably over the past century. However, its utilisation in the international context of the investigation of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide is relatively underdeveloped, only being employed significantly as recently as the 1980s. The inter-related disciplines of forensic archaeology, anthropology and pathology enable investigators to locate, excavate and exhume mass graves; producing powerful evidence of atrocities and returning victims to loved ones. It is even possible to establish the crime of genocide by identifying the attributes of the victims which made them perceived targets, for example their ethnicity or ancestry.
However, whilst there has been recognition of the powerful role forensic science can play in the investigation and prosecution processes, certain disciplines which could provide useful evidence, such as entomology and palynology, are underutilised and obstacles still remain which prevent forensic science being used to its full potential. These may be practical, such as a lack of resources or the concealment and disposal of forensic evidence encouraged by the post-crime ‘culture of silence’, as well as institutional. Whilst it has been identified that there is a lack of understanding and a conflict of prosecutorial and humanitarian motives between legal and scientific institutions, the impact of these issues on investigative collaboration has yet to be fully explored on an extensive scale. Similar issues between the fields of law and science may also occur during the trial process, with inadequate guidance in the evidentiary rules regarding scientific and expert evidence possibly limiting their submission. Given the potential strength which forensic evidence can lend to war crimes 4 investigation, these issues which hinder its deployment necessitate additional study in order to further advance their understanding and thus resolution.

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