UN calls for protection of mass graves

The United Nations High Commissioner said on Thursday that steps should be taken to protect mass graves in Iraq and ensure that evidence was not destroyed.

    Mass grave in Hilla: crucial evidence

    Sergio Vieira de Mello called on the US and its allies to do what was needed to safeguard the sites. He said independent forensic scientists must have access to the sites to search for evidence of possible war crimes.


    The call came as reports emerged of people locating their relatives through identity cards among the dead and then taking the bones away for a decent burial.


    De Mello reminded the US-led authority in Iraq that information on human rights violations should be forwarded to the UN's special rapporteur on Iraq and institutions set up to try crimes committed under the administration of deposed president Saddam Hussein.


     Biggest grave


    Several mass graves have been discovered in Iraq since the fall of Baghdad in April. Many have been overrun by distraught people looking for the remains of relatives. The biggest so far has been uncovered in Mahawil, south of Baghdad. It could contain as many as 15,000 bodies.


    From one of the mass graves in Babylon, Aljazeera correspondent Muraad Hashim reported that nearly every family in the region saw at least one person disappear or killed in the 1991 uprising against Saddam Hussein's government.

    Identifying the dead may prove


    Having stumbled on the mass grave, hundreds of people have been searching for their lost ones among the dead, he said. One person said people were taking out the decomposed bones, putting them in sacks and taking them away for a proper burial.


    Many were hovering around the graves in the hope of locating missing family members whom they have long presumed dead.


    Hasan Qindeel, member of the Human Rights Committee in Babylon said: “We found 10 mass graves in Hilla, one near the shrine of the Prophet Abraham Al-Khalil, one in Iskandariya, one in Misaib and others spread in different places. Each mass grave contains approximately 5000 persons."


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