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The international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the forensic pathologist: ethical considerations.

Abstract : Since 1991, war crimes in the former Yugoslavia have been the subject of several international medico-legal investigations of mass graves within the framework of inquiries led by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Forensic pathologists involved in the ICTY missions could be subjected to ethical tensions due to the difficulties of the missions, the emergent conflicts between forensic scientists of the investigating teams and the original nature of the ICTY proceedings. In order to study the nature of such ethical tensions, we sent a questionnaire to 65 forensic pathologists who have been involved in the ICTY missions. The rate of response was 38%. The majority of forensic pathologists questioned (n=18) did not know how the medico-legal data was exploited by the ICTY. Three of them have been subjected to pressures. Three of them were aware of mass grave sites knowingly not investigated by the ICTY. Fifteen considered that the ICTY respected the elementary rules of the law and four of them questioned the impartiality of the justice led by the ICTY. Two conflicting types of ethics can be drawn from these results: conviction ethics, which are shared by most of the forensic pathologists questioned, and responsibility ethics. In the former, the forensic pathologist completely agrees with the need for an international war crimes tribunal, even if such justice can be challenged regarding the respect of human rights and impartiality. In the latter, he or she needs to conduct him or herself in ways that do not infringe impartiality. As medical deontology duty requires impartiality ethics, discursive ethics are needed to ease ethical tensions and to suggest ethical guidelines. Alternatives to international justice, through a truth and reconciliation commission and by way of humanitarian missions combining victims' identification with forensic investigations for historical purposes, could be considered.
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Submitted on : Wednesday, June 15, 2011 - 11:40:50 AM
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Geoffroy Lorin de la Grandmaison, Michel Durigon, Grégoire Moutel, Christian Hervé. The international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the forensic pathologist: ethical considerations.. Medicine, Science & the Law, 2006, 46 (3), pp.208-12. ⟨inserm-00255877⟩



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