Forensic Engineering and Human Rights — International Association of Forensic Sciences (IAFS) 2017 in Toronto

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Source:  David Pienkowski, PhD, Section Program Chair

Helmut Brosz (Fellow, Engineering Sciences Section) organized a workshop during the IAFS 21st Triennial Meeting last month in Toronto, ON, Canada. The workshop consisted of a panel of speakers and contributors from the Engineering Sciences and Jurisprudence Sections of AAFS. This fully subscribed event was attended by an international audience. Speakers and topics discussed at this workshop included:

John Nixon’s (Fellow, Engineering Sciences Section) presentation “Human Rights and the Enduring Negative Impact of Military Weapons” demonstrated that the backdrop to many forensic investigations stems from the design of weapons, such as land mines and artillery munitions, with priority given to cost. Malfunction or misuse of these weapons can result in maiming injuries, leading to the denial of basic human mobility rights. These injuries frequently occur in impoverished communities that are subsequently devastated by the ongoing long-term economic impact.

David Pienkowski’s (Fellow, Engineering Sciences Section) contribution was entitled “Forensic Biomechanics and Humanitarian Studies.” This lecture discussed the need for the quantitative characterization of actual human tissue accompanying biomechanics-based forensic injury investigations. This presentation reviewed the basis for current humanitarian regulations governing human tissue specimen procurement essential for quantification of specific injury thresholds.

Major (Ret.) Joshua Toman presented Carole Chaski’s (Fellow, Engineering Sciences Section) lecture “Human Rights and Forensic Linguistics:  The Issue of Free Speech, Bullying, and Suicide.” This work focused on natural language engineering tools in forensic linguistics, showing how these tools can be used for investigating cases in which threatening communications in cyberspace develop into suicidal actions by the targeted victims.

Laura Liptai (Fellow, Engineering Sciences Section) and Stephanie Domitrovich (Fellow, Jurisprudence Section) jointly provided a lecture entitled “Autonomous Vehicles and Pre-Programmed Human Rights Decisions.” This presentation well-exemplified the unique new humanitarian engineering, ethical, and legal issues that arise with the emergence of new technologies.

Helmut Brosz presented “Electrical Injury, Homicide, Shock, Electrocution, and Torture.” Helmut explained how electricity has been misused by humanity in many countries to deliberately inflict pain and suffering by means of torture. Cases of electrical suicide, masochistic and sadistic applications of electricity, as well as accidental cases of electrical trauma and death were also presented.