Archive for the ‘Mass graves’ Category

Iraq’s Missing visit to the International Commission on Missing Persons in Bosnia and Hercegovina

In Iraq's Missing, Mass graves on May 25, 2010 at 10:28 am

Dear Campaigners,

A representative of the Iraq’s Missing campaign recently visited Bosnia and Hercegovina (BiH), to tour the facilities of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP). Based in Sarajevo, but with offices throughout BiH and in other countries, the ICMP specialises in DNA-assisted identification of bodies.

Sarajevo at dusk

The ICMP was established by an initiative of Bill Clinton at the G-7 summit in 1996 to support the Dayton Peace Accords, with a view “to ensure the cooperation of governments in locating and identifying those who have disappeared during armed conflict or as a result of human rights violations.” Since then, its efforts have led to the successful identification of over 15,000 people in BiH, and many others who died as a result of the Asian Tsunami, the September 11th attacks in New York, Hurricane Katrina, and other disasters and conflicts around the world.

Since establishing itself in BiH, the ICMP has significantly expanded its role in other countries, providing, for example, assistance in the form of training, to the Iraqi government.

The purpose of the visit was to gather information about the work of the ICMP in BiH and Iraq and to research the process of identification, to establish what degree the process is suitable for the situation in Iraq.

Iraq’s Missing visited the Podrinje Identification Project (PIP); located in Tuzla in the shadow of the Majevica Mountains, around a three-hour drive from the capital. Tuzla was once famous for it’s salt mines (the name “Tusla” derives from the Turkish word for salt). Following the massacre of over 8,000 Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica (almost all of them male), the bodies were stored in the city’s abandoned salt mines, where they were attacked by rats and water.

Inside the PIP's storage room

The PIP was established to deal specifically with identifying the victims of this atrocity and storing the remains more appropriately.  At PIP forensic anthropologists and pathologists conduct detailed human remains analysis, overseen by a criminologist who coordinates the cases. Post-mortem examinations are combined with ante-mortem data (information provided by the families about their loved one’s condition before their death), personal effects and DNA match reports, and results are coordinated with local identification authorities to return identified remains to their families.

At present, there are around 500 sets of mortal remains stored at PIP.

Graves at the Potocari memorial

Tuzla is also home the information ‘hub’ of ICMP activities worldwide. The Identification Coordination Division (ICD) – housed in an old sports centre where killings took place during the war – is where samples of blood, data analysis and all case information is processed. Samples are then sent to laboratories where DNA testing takes place and missing persons files are compiled at the ICD.

All data and information is made anonymous by a process of bar code tracking which protects, amongst other things, the ethnic origin of the victim – something that should be replicated in any efforts to identify victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Iraq.

Plaque at Potocari calls for justice

Iraq’s Missing also had the pleasure of meeting with Hatidža Mehmedović, an outspoken member of a group of mothers who lost their loved ones in the massacre. She and her friends were vocal in pushing to get a memorial site built at Potocari, which is now home to more than 3,000 of the dead. At the memorial, a plaque (written in Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian, English and Arabic) reads: “In the name of God the most merciful, the most compassionate. We pray to almighty God, May grievance become hope! May revenge become justice! May mothers’ tears become prayers that Srebrenica never happens to no-one, nowhere!”


Kuwait finds Gulf War mass grave of Iraq troops

In Gulf War 1991, Mass graves on May 10, 2010 at 12:15 pm

by Diana Elias

GULF WAR: Kuwaiti authorities have found a mass grave of 55 Iraqi soldiers killed in the 1991 Gulf War.

Kuwaiti authorities have found a mass grave of 55 Iraqi soldiers killed in the 1991 Gulf War, the state news agency KUNA said on Thursday.

Iraqi military badges and death certificates issued by the US-led coalition forces that fought the war with Iraq were found in the grave, an Interior Ministry spokesman told the agency.

The remains will be handed to Iraq through the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The search for the mass grave in northern Kuwait started based on tips from the ICRC and a Kuwaiti committee that has been trying to determine the fate of some 600 Kuwaitis and others who disappeared in the Gulf crisis that was sparked by Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, he said.

More than 360 Kuwaitis and others who lived in Kuwait when Iraq invaded it are still unaccounted for. Remains of the rest were found in mass graves in Iraq.

Iraqi Kurds lay Saddam’s child victims to rest

In Anfal (1987-1989), Mass graves on April 28, 2010 at 11:12 pm

» Prime Minister Barham Salih (right) and former Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani carry the coffin of one of the children

* No DNA tests available to identify remains

* Most children died of hunger, disease
By Sherko Raouf for Reuters

CHAMCHAMAL, Iraq (Reuters) – The remains of more than 100 unidentified children who died of hunger and disease during a harsh crackdown on Iraqi Kurds by Saddam Hussein were buried on Tuesday in the Kurdish town of Chamchamal.

The children were detained with their families in 1988 in the town 65 km (40 miles) south of Sulaimaniya, which is 260 km northeast of Baghdad, and from surrounding villages during a wave of arrests made by the former government in April 1988.

In a solemn ceremony on a breezy, overcast day, Kurdish peshmerga fighters in full-dress uniform carried more than 100 small coffins draped in Kurdish flags and laid them in a cemetery created especially for the young victims of oppression. The bodies of two women were also buried.

Around 4,000 people attended and a brass band played solemn music throughout the ceremony.

The arrests were part of the “Anfal” campaign aimed at suppressing the Kurds, whom the regime regarded with suspicion.

The detainees were sent to prison in Dibis, northeast of Kirkuk in northern Iraq. Many of the children died of hunger and disease and were later buried in mass graves. Their bodies were exhumed after Saddam’s fall in the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

Saddam’s ouster was followed by a bloody and devastating sectarian war. The country has been comparatively stable over the past year despite continuing bombings but there are concerns protracted coalition talks following inconclusive elections in March could push Iraq back into sectarian conflict.

A spike in violence could delay U.S. plans to end combat operations in August ahead of a pullout by the end of 2011.

The ceremony on Tuesday was attended by Barham Salih, the prime minister of the semi-autonomous Kurdish Regional Government, other leading Kurdish officials, foreign diplomats and thousands of family members of Anfal victims.

Kurdish Health Minister Taher Hawrami told Reuters the regional government lacked the equipment to perform DNA tests on the children to ascertain their identities. None of the children had been identified.

“It is very difficult to identify the victims at the current time,” he said. “We will take samples from the bodies and we will make DNA tests” when testing facilities become available.

Zeinat Fatah, 59, said she was held in Dibis with her two sons, who were aged eight and four. Both sons died of starvation in 1988. Her husband was killed during the campaign.

“Who are my sons?” she asked, weeping over the fact that her children’s remains had not been identified.

“We were left starving with no food for about 10 days, she said. “Many children died. I am a widow with no sons. I’ll cry for them until the end of my life.”

Fallujah: The Real Story

In Mass graves, Massacre of Fallujah April/November 2004, US-led occupation (2003-?) on April 21, 2010 at 12:11 am

“It was billed as a resounding military success. Over 1,200 insurgents were meant to have been killed and another 2,000 trapped inside Fallujah. But now this version of events is being challenged. Far from being crushed, rebels claim they left the city in an organised withdrawal. “It was a tactical move,” explains insurgent leader Alazaim Abuthe. “The fighters decided to redeploy to Amiriya.” Before they left, fighters booby-trapped many bodies. People are too scared to move them so the corpses lie rotting all over the city. Rabid dogs feed off them and then attack returning residents. Far from stabilising Iraq in preparation for this month’s election, the assault on Falluja has fanned the flames of civil war. Today Fallujans are too busy trying to stay alive in freezing refugee camps to worry about ballot papers that haven’t arrived for an election they have no intention of voting in. As one resident comments, ‘We’re not interested in this sort of democracy.'”

Quote of the day

In Mass graves, Secret prisons, US-led occupation (2003-?) on April 6, 2010 at 12:02 pm

‘In Iraq, we are helping the long-suffering people of that country to build a decent and democratic society at the center of the Middle East.  Together we are transforming a place of torture chambers and mass graves into a nation of laws and free institutions’, so declared President George W. Bush on 7 September 2003, six months into the occupation of Iraq. And yet, on 26 March 2010, the Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights has announced that that it unearthed 84 post-Saddam mass graves in the past year alone. Also, Human Rights Watch stated in a report published just over a year ago that ‘[a]buse in detention, typically with the aim of extracting confessions, appears common’ in the new Iraq. In 2009, the US State Department itself reported that it found ‘credible reports of torture, some resulting in death’ in the Iraqi penal system.”

Zaid Al-Ali, on