Irak Mass Graves


On May the 16 th. 2003, two significant mass graves have been discovered near the al-Mahawil military base containing the bodies of more than two thousand persons. The chaotic and unprofessional manner in which the mass graves around al-Hilla and al-Mahawil were unearthed made it impossible for many of the relatives of missing persons to identify positively many of the remains, or even to keep the human remains intact and separate. In the absence of international assistance, Iraqis used a backhoe to dig up the mass graves, literally slicing through countless bodies and mixing up remains in the process. At the end, more than one thousand corpses at the al-Mahawil grave sites were again reburied without being identified. In addition, because no forensic presence existed at the site, crucial evidence necessary for future trials of the persons responsible for the mass executions was never collected, and indeed may have been irreparably destroyed.

U.S. forces have explained this failure by asserting that any efforts to halt diggings at mass graves of victims of massacres would thwart the understandable determination of desperate relatives to confirm the fate of missing loved ones, and would thereby risk causing serious disturbances. Yet, despite the fact that U.S. authorities had every reason to anticipate that, this would be a pressing matter based on what was known about Iraqi repression and the experience in other post-conflict situations.

Those whose bodies were recovered from these mass graves were the victims of a coordinated campaign of repression, arrests, and executions carried out by the Iraqi government in the aftermath of the failed Shi`a uprising in 1991.

An Iraqi woman points one man´s photography in the lists with pictures and people´s missing names exposed in the walls of entrance of the Shi´a mosque Imam Ali, An Najaf. Iraq, 2003.05.19
An Iraqi standing in the open field where decomposed human corpses are laying found at an exhumation of a mass grave located in Al- Mahawil, Iraq, 2003.05.18.
Sabiha Salman (C) is moved after having finished the search of her beloved missing ones, without getting an only identification, among the exhumed human remains of the mass graves of Mahawil, Iraq, 2003.05.18.
Bags of plastic containing human remains after they have been removed of the mass graves of al-Mahawil, Iraq, 2003.05.18.
Mehna Faadel cries because she could identify none of her missing relatives among the exhumed human remains of the common ditches of al – Mahawil, Iraq, 2003.05.18.
Decomposed remains of human corpses exhumed from the mass grave of al_Mahawil, Iraq, 2003.05.18.
Heider Jouad (centre) observes some human remains, presuming that they are its brother’s mortal remains Omar Jouad, soldier of the Iraqi army disappeared in 1991, based on the likeness between the pattern of the together shirt found on the body and the shirt portrayed in an old picture, al-Mahawil, Iraq, 2003.05.18.
Two Iraqi women at the open field of the al-Mahawil mass grave looking to the unidentified human corps already prepared for burial, Iraq, 2003.05.18.
In the impossibility of following the Islamic mortuary ritual of three washes of the dead body with water, an Iraqi man scrubs, for three times, his hands in the earth and in some exhumed human bones of the mass graves discovered in al-Mahawil, Iraq, 2003.05.18.
Exhumed human remains of the graves in mass of Mahawil fill the theatre of Mussaib, while relatives of the missing persons try to identify beloved ones, Iraq, 2003.05.19.
The mortal remains of an Iraqi, exhumed at al-Mahawil mass graves, getting out of the Iman Ali mosque, transported by relatives, executing the ritual mortuary’s Shi´a part, An Najaf, Iraq, 2003.05.19.

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