More than 200 mass graves of IS victims uncovered in Iraq, UN says


Posted

November 07, 2018 06:38:31

The United Nations says more than 200 mass graves have been found in parts of Iraq that were controlled by Islamic State (IS).

Key points:

  • Mass graves could hold between 6,000 and 12,000 bodies
  • One survivor played dead when being dumped in a mass grave and then fled
  • UN says grave sites are “testament to profound suffering and shocking cruelty”

The graves are mostly in Iraq’s north and range in size — the smallest grave holds eight bodies, while the largest contains thousands.

The biggest grave is in a sinkhole just south of the city of Mosul, which was held by IS for three years, until mid-2017.

Iraq’s Mass Graves Directorate thinks there are around 4,000 bodies in the al-khasfa sinkhole — but no-one knows for sure because excavating it methodically is too dangerous and too expensive: the site is booby-trapped and the group doesn’t have the staff, or the cash, to begin a forensic dig.

The site is one of 202 sites detailed in a new UN report, based on information from Iraqi authorities.

UN teams have been to some of the sites.

In some cases, they were led there by survivors of IS death squads.

“In here, I didn’t die,” says one man, who played dead among the bodies of others shot by IS.

“I didn’t speak, I didn’t breathe. For 10 minutes or 15 minutes. I saw they went to another place, and I went.”

It is thought the graves combined hold the bodies of between 6,000 to 12,000 victims of IS.

The group is thought to have killed more than 30,000 people during its three terrifying years in power.

It filmed and broadcast many of the executions of soldiers, police, journalists, gay people, Iraqi tribespeople that wouldn’t bow down to the Sunni extremists, and, of course, thousands of Yazidi people from Iraq’s north.

At one site, on the grounds of Saddam Hussein’s former presidential palace in Tikrit, 1,700 Iraqi soldiers and cadets were killed in one day — June 12, 2014.

Very few of the sites have been excavated.

Suki Nagra, the director of the UN’s Human Rights office in Iraq, says the sites need to be protected until they can be dug up by properly trained forensic experts.

“The mass grave sites documented in our report are testament to profound suffering and shocking cruelty,” she said.

“They need to be protected and treated as crime scenes with evidence preserved for criminal prosecutions.

“Determining the facts around the circumstances that led to the mass graves will be an important step both in the mourning process for families of the missing and their journey to securing justice.”

It is likely that more mass graves will be uncovered.

The extremists still cling on to small patches of Iraq and Syria, and it is thought they are still holding around 3,000 Yazidis as slaves.

Topics:

terrorism,

unrest-conflict-and-war,

murder-and-manslaughter,

crime,

law-crime-and-justice,

rights,

iraq,

kurdistan,

syrian-arab-republic



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