Mass Graves Found In Kirkuk – Reports

Mass Graves Found In Kirkuk – Reports

Mass graves have again been found in Kirkuk on Monday (November 20), local and international news sources reported.

According to Iraq’s security forces, a large number of dead have been discovered inside oil wells in an area close to oil-rich Kirkuk city. They believe the bodies are of civilians executed by Islamic State (ISIS), a security source told local media on Monday.

Iraq will now collect DNA samples to identify the victims, the security source told The Baghdad Post.

Just over a week ago, Iraqi authorities said 400 bodies of civilians executed by ISIS militants were found in the province of Kirkuk near Hawijah.

Recently, as the region has been liberated from ISIS, not a month goes by that communities do not find graves with multiple bodies of people brutally killed by ISIS or other militia forces. In some cases, ISIS militants are found buried in large multi-person graves while in other cases, civilian women, children and police are found.

Areas with the most graves found so far are Anbar, Kirkuk/Hawija, Salahaddin, Mosul and Sinjar and range in size from a few bodies to 2,600.

One of the largest killings took place in Sinjar at the beginning of the ISIS occupation in 2015. Since then, authorities have found more than 30 mass graves, which are estimated by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to hold over 1,500 bodies of Ezidi families.

Because of the political disputes between KRG and Baghdad over provincial borders, the exhumation and documentation of buried bodies in Sinjar has dragged out at the risk of losing important data for families and for the Ezidi community.  

The question of who will lead this forensic investigation is up in the air. Iraq is not a member of the International Criminal Court, and its law system does not contain provisions for genocide, war crimes, or crimes against humanity. For the purposes of evidence gathering and prosecution, human rights organizations are pushing the Iraqi government in Baghdad and the KRG to come up with a clear legal strategy to deal with the Islamic State’s atrocities before exhuming the graves.

In 2006, the Iraqi parliament passed the Law on Protection of Mass Graves (Law No. 5, 2006) establishing a legal mechanism for locating missing persons, conducting excavations and identifying human remains exhumed from mass graves. The aim of the Law is also to protect mass graves from disturbance, unregulated excavation and excavation without permission of the Ministry of Human Rights, and to facilitate prosecutions.

Under this Law, the Ministry for Human Rights had been designated to lead the effort of exhuming and indexing mass graves, as well as documenting evidence that can be used in a court of law for investigating and prosecuting serious international crimes.

The Ministry of Human Rights was dissolved in August 2015 as part of the government’s current austerity measures and their role has been taken on by other actors but with divisions between KRG and Baghdad the process is dragging.

Other actors in this process include the courts, the Prosecutor’s Office, the Ministry of Interior, forensic experts and local government representatives.