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THE BONE WOMAN
7.09.04
Science and Health:
International Justice
More on This Story:
Clea Koff Biography

In order to prosecute charges of genocide and crimes against humanity, the UN needs proof that the bodies found are those of non-combatants. This means answering two questions: who were the victims, and how were they killed? The only people who can answer both of these questions are forensic anthropologists. In an interview with NOW's David Brancaccio, forensic anthropologist Clea Koff discusses the evidence she uncovered in Rwanda that has been key to bringing the guilty to justice and examines how evidence is being gathered in Iraq and elsewhere to prosecute crimes against humanity.

Clea Koff

Before being sent to Rwanda in 1996, Clea Koff was a twenty-three-year-old graduate student studying prehistoric skeletons in the safe confines of Berkeley, California. Over the next four years, her grueling investigation into events that shocked the world transformed her. Koff's unflinching account of those years — what she saw, how it affected her, who went to trial based on evidence she collected — is chronicled in THE BONE WOMAN, published ten years after the genocide in Rwanda.

As a forensic anthropologist, Koff has been sent on seven missions by the UN War Crimes Tribunal, coming face to face with the human meaning of genocide; exhuming almost five hundred bodies from a single grave in Kibuye, Rwanda; uncovering the wire-bound wrists of Srebrenica massacre victims in Bosnia; disinterring the body of a young man in southwestern Kosovo as his grandfather looks on in silence. In THE BONE WOMAN, Koff recounts the fascinating details of her work, the hellish working conditions, the bureaucracy of the UN, and the heartbreak of survivors.

Clea Koff is the daughter of a Tanzanian mother and an American father, both documentary filmmakers focused on human rights issues. She spent her childhood in England, Kenya, Tanzania, Somalia and the United States. She now divides her time between Los Angeles and Melbourne, Australia.

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