Academic Forensic Pathology

The Official Publication of the National Association of Medical Examiners

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Title: The Role of a Forensic Pathologist in Armed Conflict
Author(s): Peerwani Nizam
Citation: Acad Forensic Pathol. 2017 Aug; 7(3):370-389.
Type: Invited Review
Keywords: Forensic pathology Forensic pathologist Armed conflict Violation of medical neutrality Use of excessive force Torture
Abstract: Wars and armed conflicts by their very nature are cruel and ruthless. In the 17th century, the Dutch jurist Hugo Grotius, widely regarded as the father of public international law, wrote in The Rights of War and Peace Book 3, Chapter 1:VI that “wars, for the attainment of their objects, it cannot be denied, must employ force and terror as their most proper agents.” A forensic pathologist can play a crucial role in armed conflicts because of the unique training that he or she receives, including examination of human remains to determine both the cause and manner of death, and discussing the mechanism of death. Although the obvious role, then, would be to perform exhumation autopsies in mass killings or genocides, being a physician, a forensic pathologist is also uniquely qualified to evaluate and document physical torture, use of excessive force, and use of chemical weapons, as well as violation of medical neutrality in armed conflicts based on prevailing laws and conventions.Most of the investigations this author has conducted, including investigation of Rwanda and Bosnia genocides, violation of medical neutrality and use of excessive force in Bahrain and the Occupied West Bank and Gaza, searching for mass graves in post-Saddam Iraq, documenting mass graves in Bamiyan as well as Dash-t-Layli in Afghanistan after the defeat of the Taliban, and conducting local area capacity assessment in Libya after the fall of Colonel Gadhafi were all sponsored and logistically supported by nongovernmental organizations such as Physicians for Human Rights (USA).
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