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The war dead and their gravesites

30-06-2009 Article, International Review of the Red Cross, No. 874, by Anna Petrig

This article provides an overview of the various IHL obligations in respect of persons who have lost their lives in armed conflicts, as well as their gravesites. It investigates the peacetime applicability of these provisions, and examines why present-day IHL should be applied to questions concerning the war dead and their graves, regardless of when death occurred.


Anna Petrig (LL.M. Harvard) is a former Attaché of the Legal Division of the International Committee of the Red Cross and is currently working as a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law in Freiburg, Germany. 
International humanitarian law (IHL) contains various provisions pertaining to the dead in armed conflicts and their burial places. This article provides an overview of the various substantive obligations with regard to persons having lost their lives in armed conflicts and their gravesites. The temporal scope of application of these provisions – namely whether they apply in times of peace – will also be analysed. Finally, the reasons why IHL as in force today is applicable to questions concerning the dead and their gravesites will be considered.  

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