Conflict

200 mass graves left behind by ISIS in Iraq

Iraq

A UN report has revealed the discovery of more than 200 mass graves, which contain over 12,000 bodies throughout the various provinces in Iraq.

After the defeat of ISIS in Iraq, the Iraqi Government, the UN, and other international organisations discovered over 200 mass graves throughout the country. According to the latest UN Human Rights Office and the UN Assistance Mission’s report, the mass graves that have been found so far across the provinces of Nineveh, Anbar, Kirkuk, and Salahuddin, contain over 12,000 bodies, many of them women, children and Iraqi Security Forces (ISF).

The report called on the Iraqi authorities to maintain and preserve these graves for forensic organisations to extract evidence and DNA so that the bodies of the victims are identified and returned to their families who have been waiting to hear the fate of the loved ones.

“Evidence gathered from these sites will be central to ensuring credible investigations, prosecution, and convictions in accordance with international due process standards,” said the report.

In 2014, ISIS entered these four provinces in Iraq killing anyone standing in their way and rejecting their rule. This resulted in the brutal murder of thousands of Iraqis throughout the three years that ISIS controlled large swathes of the country (2014-2017).

In August, the ISF announced that they had exhumed the bodies of over 2,070 people from the Khasfa mass grave in Mosul alone. Residents estimate that over 7,000-8,000 people were buried there by ISIS.  Formerly a large crater created by a meteor crash, ISIS used the cavity to fill in the bodies of its victims in Mosul. When the ISF began its operation to liberate the city of Mosul, ISIS militants started filling the crater with dirt to cover up their crimes. However, soon after liberation, the ISF began exhuming the site.

Despite the exhumations, DNA tracing is yet to be done to many of these bodies.

The defeat of the terrorist group in December 2017 has allowed local authorities and security forces to investigate the mass execution committed by ISIS and discover burial sites on a weekly basis. During the operations to liberate areas under ISIS control, the Iraqi government announced that they expect to find more mass graves in the areas formerly controlled by the group.

With many families still waiting to receive and perform proper burial rites to the bodies of their loved ones who were killed by ISIS, international organisations and the Iraqi authorities are accelerating their efforts to investigate these sites.