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On 10 Year Anniversary of ‘Convoy of Death’, President Obama Must Keep His Promise to Investigate

Susan Asam on December 20, 2011

Afghan Mass Grave

This December marks the 10-year anniversary of the “Convoy of Death.”  During Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, 2,000 prisoners who had surrendered to the US and the Afghan Northern Alliance were shot or suffocated to death in sealed truck containers while being transferred by Northern Alliance forces. The dead prisoners – some of who had been tortured - were then buried in a mass grave in a northern Afghanistan desert at Dasht-e-Leili. 

In 2002, PHR discovered the mass graves and since then has led advocacy and investigations into the Dasht-e-Leili massacre. Evidence and eye-witness accounts revealed that several sealed containers held hundreds of men each, and that when the men, stacked like plywood in the containers, began crying out for air and water, holes were shot into the sides of the metal containers, killing many inside.  

Ahmat Abdulahad, an ethnic Uighur released from Guantanamo to the Republic of Palau, recounts the horror:

"With an open wound on my leg, I was packed into a shipping container with hundreds of men. I could hardly breathe.  My leg was losing blood.  I thought I was going to die. The men in my container were beating on the walls, begging for mercy. Others were dying. I was praying for my life. When we reached Sheberghan, many of the men in my container were dead." 
"I wish I could forget this harrowing experience, but these are memories I can never forget."


PHR will not forget the hundreds of men who suffered or the need for justice. For the past 10 years, PHR has called on both the Bush and Obama Administrations to investigate what happened at Dasht-e-Leili and to hold accountable the people who committed these crimes. Instead of providing answers, the Bush Administration reportedly impeded at least three federal probes into the massacre. In 2009, during an interview by CNN’s Anderson Cooper, President Obama promised to ask his national security team to investigate the alleged war crimes and cover up. However despite significant news coverage and PHR’s repeated requests seeking answers, President Obama has never made public the results of the investigation.

PHR calls upon President Obama to issue a public statement as to who is responsible for the massacre, whether US troops were involved, or whether any US officials had sought to prevent an investigation of these events. It has been 10 years and still we have no answers. The US should lead, rather than ignore, the effort to find them.   

Places: Afghanistan