- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 1, 2009

PARIS (AP) - Two human rights groups urged a judge Wednesday to shut down a Paris exhibition of preserved corpses, saying it violates laws that protect the dignity of the human body.

Exhibitions like the Paris show, displaying Chinese cadavers whose bodily fluids have been replaced with plastic, have stirred controversy around the world in recent years.

The two French human rights associations brought a complaint against the organizer of the Paris exhibit, Encore Productions, calling for its closure and requesting that the company produce documents proving the bodies came from consenting individuals.

A Paris judge heard both sides’ arguments Wednesday, and is to rule on the complaint April 9.

The show, in an art gallery on Paris’ Right Bank, displays bared bodies with no protective glass, some skinless, some with muscles flayed like feathers, all in different states of evisceration.

Opponents of shows like this one have questioned the ethical implications of the displays _ saying they cater to voyeurism and morbid curiosity_ and some activists suggest that the cadavers may come from a black market in the bodies of Chinese prisoners.

Pascal Bernardin, director of Encore Productions, said the Hong Kong foundation that provided the bodies, Anatomical Sciences & Technologies, had assured him that they were acquired in accordance with Chinese law. But he insisted that the corpses were now covered by medical rights to anonymity.

“I’m not a legal expert and I’m not a doctor,” said Bernardin, who has produced French concerts by the Rolling Stones and Madonna and Disney on Ice shows. “I am, as I like to say, a transmitter of emotions.”

Richard Sedillot, a lawyer for the human rights groups, dismissed arguments by Bernardin’s lawyer that the exhibit has scientific aims, calling it a purely commercial undertaking.

Some U.S. states have considered legislation to ban exhibits that do not have proof of consent for use of the bodies commercially.

The “Our Body” exhibit has been in Paris since February and is scheduled to run through August. Previous shows in Lyon and Marseille attracted a combined 145,000 visitors, and the Paris exhibition has already sold 200,000 tickets, Bernardin said.

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