From Law to Policy and Practice – Collaborative Research Amidst a Pandemic: The Creation of the Bournemouth Protocol on Mass Grave Protection and Investigation


  • Dr Melanie Klinkner Bournemouth University
  • Dr Ellie Smith Bournemouth University



How can mass graves be protected to safeguard truth and justice for survivors? This was the question motivating the research project to produce international protection and investigative standards for mass graves, which resulted in the creation of the Bournemouth Protocol on Mass Grave Protection and Investigation. The research was premised upon broad and inclusive stakeholder consultation to ensure suitability, completeness and sustainability of project outcomes as well as to generate acceptance, endorsement and implementation. To realise the project we used a combination of desk-based research, round-table discussion with expert-participants from a variety of disciplines and cultural backgrounds and anonymous external consultation.

In this paper, we reflect on the methods and processes used for the purpose of international standard setting based on legal norms. We discuss the choices made along the way in facilitating this cross-disciplinary, international, inclusive and collaborative project. In doing so, we explore the function of the research process in light of the need to ensure that the Protocol reflects the different and possibly conflicting needs and sensitivities of survivors vis-à-vis the demands of criminal justice, capacity, resources and scientifically robust practices. We outline the challenges experienced and anticipated in evaluating approaches, agreeing definitions, identifying commonalities, negotiating differences and adapting to Covid-19 as part of the process of translating legal norms into policy and practice for achieving effective impact.

Author Biographies

Dr Melanie Klinkner, Bournemouth University

Associate Professor, Bournemouth University

Dr Ellie Smith, Bournemouth University

Researcher, Bournemouth University






Academic articles