War Crime in Afghanistan
Former Taliban fighters mill about the courtyard of Shebargan Prison, northern Afghanistan, December 1, 2001, a week after they surrendered to the Northern Alliance following their defeat in Kunduz.
Credit: Oleg Nikishin/Getty Images
In November 2001, as many as 2,000 Taliban prisoners are believed to have been killed in container trucks by US-allied Afghan troops, and buried in a mass grave in Dasht-e-Leili, Afghanistan. These Afghan troops were operating jointly with American forces, who were allegedly present at the scene of the crime. PHR investigators discovered the mass grave in 2002.
Under the auspices of the UN, PHR’s International Forensic Program conducted an initial examination of part of the site, exhumed fifteen remains, and conducted autopsies on three individual remains, finding that the likely cause of death was consistent with suffocation.
Since 2002, PHR has been calling for the site to be secured, protection of the witnesses, and a full investigation of the alleged massacre. Despite these appeals, Afghan eyewitnesses were tortured, murdered, and disappeared, and sections of the mass grave site have been dug up and removed.
Seven years of investigation and advocacy by PHR led to major articles in Newsweek, McClatchy Newspapers, and The New York Times, the latter of which revealed that George W. Bush’s Administration impeded at least three federal probes into these alleged war crimes.
>> Learn More: Timeline of the Events of the Investigation
President Obama Called to Act on Promise to Investigate Dasht-e-Leili Massacre (December 13, 2011)
In a letter dated December 9, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) asked President Obama to make good on his promise to investigate the massacre of prisoners by the Northern Alliance, US allies.
Dasht-e-Leili, Ten Years Later (Harper's Magazine, December 13, 2011)
In December 2001, Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance, with strong US backing consisting of special-forces units and CIA paramilitary operatives, were close to consolidating their control over the country. Then, in the north, as many as 2,000 prisoners who had surrendered to the Alliance or their American supporters were apparently shot to death or suffocated in sealed metal truck containers while being transferred to Afghanistan’s Sheberghan prison.
Physicians Call on Obama to Investigate Massacre of 2,000 Taliban Prisoners (Democracy Now!, December 13, 2011)
PHR is calling on President Obama to act on his promise to investigate the massacre of at least 2,000 suspected Taliban prisoners of war that occurred 10 years ago in Afghanistan. The prisoners were allegedly shot to death or suffocated in sealed metal truck containers at Dasht-e-Leili while being held by the US-backed Afghan Northern Alliance.
Hans Hogrefe to be Honored for Contributions to Human Rights (July 11, 2011)
Hans Hogrefe, PHR’s Chief Policy Officer and Washington Director, will be honored by the Stewart Mott Foundation and the Open Society Foundation for his contributions to human rights.
On 10 Year Anniversary of ‘Convoy of Death’, President Obama Must Keep His Promise to Investigate (December 20, 2011)
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.
Fatou Bensouda to take the helm as ICC’s new prosecutor (December 15, 2011)
Earlier this week, Gambian lawyer Fatou Bensouda was chosen to be the new Chief Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court. She will be the second person, and the first African, to hold this position. Bensouda was the likely choice for the position given her professional qualifications, including serving as Deputy Prosecutor to Luis Moreno-Ocampo during his nine-year tenure as Chief Prosecutor of the Court. Given the extent of the ICC’s work in Africa – all seven of the countries with cases before the court are African – the choice of an African prosecutor seems especially appropriate.
Susannah Sirkin Discusses Afghan Mass Grave on PBS Worldfocus (July 23, 2009)
Seven years ago, investigators for the Boston-based group Physicians for Human Rights discovered what appeared to be a mass grave in northern Afghanistan.The bodies, they were told, were those of Taliban fighters who had been rounded up by Northern Alliance forces shortly after the U.S. invasion in 2001 and stuffed into metal shipping containers for transport to a nearby prison.
PHR Dasht-e-Leili Investigators on Fresh Air Today (July 23, 2009)
Nathaniel Raymond has been leading the investigation into the alleged 2001 Dasht-e-Leili massacre in Afghanistan. Dr. Jennifer Leaning discovered the mass grave of Taliban prisoners.
Report on Conditions at Afghanistan's Shebarghan Prison (January 2002)
On the basis of direct observation, contact with the prisoners, and interviews prior to and subsequent to this inspection, PHR's 3-member team reported that conditions at Shebarghan were in grave violation of international standards for those held in detention or as prisoners of war. The facilities were entirely inadequate for the care of the number of people held there, the food insufficient in quantity and nutrition, the water supply unclean, sanitation virtually absent, clothing meager, and barred walls open to the elements exposed the inhabitants to winter conditions.