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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 a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to stop mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

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