HRW asks help for uncovering Raqqa mass graves
Date: 2018-07-05 11:21
Activists working to uncover mass graves in northeastern Syria need help to preserve evidence, identify human remains and shed more light on the unspeakable horrors perpetrated by the militants during their reign there, an international watchdog said Tuesday (July 3).
Human Rights Watch said thousands of bodies — both of civilian victims brutally slain by the extremists, resident killed in airstrikes by the US-led coalition and of ISIS fighters themselves — remain to be recovered in several mass graves scattered around the city of Raqqa and nearby areas.
According to remnants of clothing on them, some of the bodies already found are thought to be of ISIS militants.
The appeal came in a new report released Tuesday by the New York-based group.
A local group working to uncover mass graves in is “struggling to cope with the logistical challenges of collecting and organizing information” on the bodies uncovered and providing it to families searching for missing or dead relatives, HRW said.
Human Rights Watch underscored that identifying missing people and preserving evidence for possible prosecutions is critical for Syria’s future.
“Raqqa city has at least nine mass graves, each one estimated to have dozens, if not hundreds, of bodies, making exhumations a monumental task,” said Priyanka Motaparthy, acting emergencies director at HRW.
“Without the right technical assistance, these exhumations may not provide families with the answers they have been waiting for and could damage or destroy evidence crucial to future justice efforts,” she added.
HRW’s report said that on June 12, the first responders’ team in Raqqa finished uncovering one mass grave containing of 553 bodies and reburying them in a local graveyard after logging in their identifying information.
It added that the team subsequently began work uncovering a second mass grave.
The first grave, at the city’s al-Rashid playing field, is one of nine mass grave locations the activist team has identified, HRW quoted a local team leader as saying. The report added that HRW researchers visited the site in May.
At the time, between 5,200 people to more than 15,000 people were believed buried in the graves.