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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Hugo Grotius, Desecretation of Bodies of the Enemy, and International Law

By Jessica R. Alexander, J.D., M.L.S., Reference Librarian

Hugo Grotius,' the father of international law's, writings on international norms and the burial of the dead inform our understanding of the revulsion we feel when bodies are desecrated, no matter that they are those of our enemy combatants. His works were published in the seventeenth century. One English translation is, "In The Rights of War and Peace: Including the Law of Nature and Nations, (A. C. Campbell, trans.) 213 (1901), Book II, Chapter XIX, On the Right of Burial, in which he quotes sources of myth and reality:

"...Upon the principles advanced above, it is agreed by all that public enemies are entitled to burial. Appian calls it the common right of war, with which, Tacitus says, no enemy will refuse to comply. And the rules, respecting this, are, according to Dio Chrysostom, observed, even while the utmost rage of war still continues. (For the hand of death, as the writer just quoted observes, has destroyed all enmity towards the fallen, and protected their bodies from all insult.)"(my emphasis).

This book (and chapter) can be found in full-text on Google and on HeinOnline, which you can access through our Stanley portal or in the library. Link to the text on HeinOnline here (Faculty, staff, students, and in-house users only).