UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
IRAQ: Calls for compensation after mass grave discovery
BAGHDAD, 2 May 2005 (IRIN) - Human rights activists have called for justice and compensation for families of victims found in one of the biggest mass graves so far discovered in Iraq.
The remains of around 1,500 people, mainly women and children who had been shot at close range, were unearthed on Saturday in Samawa, some 300 km south of the capital, Baghdad.
Officials said the site contained the badly decomposed bodies of people of Kurdish origin. Many Kurds were thrown out of their homes in cities like Kirkuk, at the end of the 1980s during Saddam Hussein’s Arabisation programme, which discriminated against the Kurds, forcing them to leave wealthy areas of such cities to make way for Arabs.
A Human Rights Watch (HRW) researcher in the Jordanian capital, Amman, who did not want to be named for security reasons, told IRIN that each mass grave found in the country was considered as “terrorism against international human rights laws.”
The HRW worker said families should be compensated and the killers should be brought to justice.
“We are following the case of every mass grave found in the country and we have been trying to assist and help the Iraqi government in the study of the cases and support them based on international human rights laws,” the HRW source told IRIN from Amman.
Nearly 160 skeletons have been removed from the grave so far, which consists of 18 shallow trenches dug by earth-moving vehicles.
The victims were identified by their clothing which consisted of traditional Kurdish garments and because others were carrying identity cards.
Iraq’s minister of Human Rights, Bakhtiar Amin, told IRIN that his investigation committee had presented a preliminary report stating that they were quite sure that the skeletons were of Kurds, who fled the north during the 1980s and were killed by Saddam’s regime instead of being resettled.
“I’m of Kurdish origin and I can understand how much this affected our lives and for this reason the government should set up a fund for the families of the victims of Saddam’s government, for those who were killed without compassion, especially the children who were the future of Iraq,” Amin said.
The official added that every effort would be made to bring those responsible for the horrific act to justice.
Nearly one million Iraqis are believed to have disappeared under Saddam Hussein's regime and a large number are thought to have been put to death then buried in mass graves, according to the ministry.
Hussam Sinawi, an Iraqi investigator working with the US team investigating crimes committed by the former regime, told IRIN that some of the skeletons had been sent for DNA analysis outside Iraq in order to obtain more precise results.
“We have found identification cards on nearly 20 percent of the victims, which proves they are from Kurdish villages in the north of Iraq. We discovered that they had been killed by AK-47 type rifles in front of the grave. But the most shocking thing was that most of them were women and children,” Sinawi added.
According to the Ministry of Human Rights (MoHR), some 315 mass graves have been found in Iraq since the US-led conflict to oust Saddam in March 2003. The number of bodies found in graves varies from 10 to more than 1,000 people. The mass grave recently found in Samawa is one of the largest unearthed so far.
The Samawa site was first identified early last year by Coalition forces in Iraq, but proper examination did not begin until early this year.
Themes: (IRIN) Children, (IRIN) Human Rights
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