Humanitarian forensic science

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Humanitarian forensic science is the application of the knowledge and skills of forensic medicine and science to humanitarian action, especially following conflicts or disasters. It sprouted from the experience of the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team and was shaped by International Humanitarian and Human Rights Law. It has been further developed by the International Committee of the Red Cross, especially since 2003. Since then, there have been many lessons learned. Forensic science has a humanitarian application as well as being a tool for justice. Identification of the dead is an essential component of the proper involvement of a forensic professional in dealing with human remains. Managing large numbers of deaths following a disaster or in a post-conflict environment, from the point of view of human identification, is a completely different exercise compared with everyday work. Meaningful forensic action in large-scale post-conflict or post-disaster settings may not be the exclusive preserve of forensic experts. Improving the capacity of a forensic system to identify the dead requires improvement of the forensic system generally.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)639-650
Number of pages12
JournalAustralian Journal of Forensic Sciences
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2 Nov 2018


  • disasters
  • Forensic science
  • human identification
  • humanitarian law
  • large numbers of deaths
  • The Missing

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