Dead Body Management in Armed Conflict: Reflections on Its Position under the Ethiopian Law

Tensae Gebrekrstos Gebreegziabher


One of the fundamental principles of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) is that persons who do not or no longer participate in armed conflict should be maximally protected and, in general, treated humanely. This extends to dead bodies in armed conflict that should be treated with respect and dignity. In many armed conflicts, however, individuals have been separated from their families and died without being identified. Dead bodies are sometimes despoiled, mutilated, and abandoned without any funeral rite. The knowledge that the remains of their loved ones have been properly handled and accorded dignity is a source of solace to the family. This article is, therefore, to examine the position of the Ethiopian legal infrastructure in response to dead body management in armed conflict. To this end, the author employed a doctrinal-based analytical study. Both primary and secondary data sources are utilized and the data retrieved from both sources are analyzed with a normative qualitative approach. The status of the Ethiopian law to do justice to the dead and their families are examined in light of the IHL and FDRE Constitution, Revised Criminal Code, and Defense legislation. Based on this, the article found that the Ethiopian legal regime does not fully recognize dead body management in armed conflict. In particular, though the obligation towards the respectful treatment of the dead bodies, respectful disposal of the dead, and protection of their possessions are recognized, the obligation to search for and collect the body of the dead, return the dead bodies to the family or next of kin, identify and respectfully dispose of the dead is virtually none. Therefore, the Ethiopian legal regime should incorporate the rest obligations to be in line with the international treaty obligations so that effective justice can be done to the dead, their family, and next of kin.

Keywords: Armed Conflict, Dead Body Management, IHL, Posthumous Rights

DOI: 10.7176/IAGS/95-02

Publication date:June 30th 2022

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ISSN (Paper)2224-574X ISSN (Online)2224-8951

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