Proving violence: forensics and war crimes during the First World War
This presentation will focus on the forensic investigations carried out on war violence and intent to shed light on the first steps of a medical practice located at the crossroads of medicine, humanitarian action, law and politics. As early as September 1914, several physicians produce expertise to assess the use of prohibited weapons – gas shells and explosive bullets – by enemy forces and carry out autopsies and examinations directly on the field. These investigations are part of a greater focus on war damage and are accompanied by a desire to regulate violence. Based on the medical literature produced on war violence and medical reports, this paper aims to explore the genesis of this type of investigation and their implications. The use of forensic knowledge provides insights into the evolving attention to bodies, wounds and corpses and reveals concerns related to war violence and its regulation.