Iraq's Legacy of Terror: Mass Graves
Since the Saddam Hussein regime was overthrown in May, 270 mass
graves have been reported. By mid-January, 2004, the number of confirmed sites
climbed to fifty-three. Some graves hold a few dozen bodies—their arms lashed
together and the bullet holes in the backs of skulls testimony to their
execution. Other graves go on for hundreds of meters, densely packed with
thousands of bodies.
"We've already discovered just so far the remains of 400,000 people in mass
graves," said British Prime Minister Tony Blair on November 20 in London. The
United Nations, the U.S. State Department, Amnesty International, and Human
Rights Watch (HRW) all estimate that Saddam Hussein's regime murdered hundreds
of thousands of innocent people. "Human Rights Watch estimates that as many as
290,000 Iraqis have been 'disappeared' by the Iraqi government over the past two
decades," said the group in a statement in May. "Many of these 'disappeared' are
those whose remains are now being unearthed in mass graves all over Iraq."
If these numbers prove accurate, they represent a crime against humanity
surpassed only by the Rwandan genocide of 1994, Pol Pot's Cambodian killing
fields in the 1970s, and the Nazi Holocaust of World War II.
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Report prepared by USAID