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For Immediate Release

Statement by Frank Donaghue, CEO, on Dasht-e-Leili Mass Grave in Afghanistan

Cambridge, Mass - 12/11/2008

Investigative reports by McClatchy newspapers, as well as PHR's own findings, have revealed that large sections of the Dasht-e-Leili mass grave in Northern Afghanistan have been dug up and removed.

PHR discovered this grave site in 2002. Reportedly, this site may have contained the bodies of as many as 2,000 prisoners who surrendered to the forces of Afghan warlord, General Abdul Rasheed Dostum and US commandoes in November 2001.

For seven years PHR has been investigating allegations that these prisoners were suffocated in cargo containers and dumped in the desert.

Reportedly, this evidence of potential war crimes was removed during the past year by the forces of General Dostum.

Our efforts on this case have involved PHR's International Forensic Program, which has documented human rights violations and mass atrocities around the world.

PHR investigators discovered this mass grave in 2002, as reported in a Newsweek magazine special report. Our forensic scientists conducted an initial assessment of the grave for the UN and performed preliminary autopsies of several bodies at the site.

Since 2002, PHR advocated for the site to be secured and for a full investigation to be conducted by the US, the United Nations, and the Government of Afghanistan.

Now, in the wake of these revelations of the destruction of the grave site, PHR is calling on Afghan President Karzai and the United Nations to ensure that any remaining evidence at the site be secured.

The additional revelations by McClatchy newspapers, as well as documents which PHR received this year under the Freedom of Information Act indicate that the Bush Administration failed to vigorously investigate this alleged war crime.

Congress must hold a full, public inquiry into what the Bush Administration knew about these events and what they did or did not do about it. It's time for truth and accountability, and a restoration of the rule of law. Respect for human rights demands nothing less.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is an independent organization that uses medicine and science to stop mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. We are supported by the expertise and passion of health professionals and concerned citizens alike.

Since 1986, PHR has conducted investigations in more than 40 countries around the world, including Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Sudan, the United States, the former Yugoslavia, and Zimbabwe.

  • 1986 — Led investigations of torture in Chile gaining freedom for heroic doctors there
  • 1988 — First to document the Iraqi use of chemical weapons on Kurds providing               evidence for prosecution of war criminals
  • 1996 — Exhumed mass graves in the Balkans and Rwanda to provide evidence for               International Criminal Tribunals
  • 1997 — Shared the Nobel Peace Prize for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines
  • 2003 — Warned US Policymakers on health and human rights conditions prior to and               during the invasion of Iraq
  • 2004 — Documented genocide and sexual violence in Darfur in support of international               prosecutions
  • 2010 — Investigated the epidemic of violence spread by Burma’s military junta
  • 2011 — Championed the principle of noninterference with medical services in times of               armed conflict and civil unrest during the Arab Spring
  • 2012 — Trained doctors, lawyers, police, and judges in the Democratic Republic of the               Congo, Kenya, and Syria on the proper collection of evidence in sexual               violence cases
  • 2013 — Won first prize in the Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention with MediCapt, our               mobile app that documents evidence of torture and sexual violence

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