Human rights group calls for probe of mass grave's removal

McClatchy NewspapersDecember 12, 2008 

Physicians for Human Rights called Friday for the Afghanistan and United States governments to investigate the removal of perhaps as many as 2,000 bodies from a mass grave in Dasht-e-Leili, Afghanistan.

McClatchy reported Thursday that men allegedly reporting to Afghan warlord Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum had dug up the site in recent months and that nothing remained there now but open pits.

Frank Donaghue, the chief executive office of PHR, said that his organization, which discovered the graves in 2002, had been investigating since whether the men's deaths, allegedly after they had surrendered to Dostum's forces, were a war crime. The men allegedly died of suffocation as they were being transported in sealed cargo containers.

"Removing evidence of an alleged mass atrocity is itself a war crime and must be investigated," Donaghue said. "The Afghan government, with the support of the UN and the international community, must move quickly to protect the site."

PHR also called for the United States to investigate what role American troops might have had in the deaths of the men and accused the Bush administration of covering up at the time the magnitude of what had taken place.

"The Bush administration's willful failure to investigate Dasht-e-Leili is a stark example of its disregard for international and U.S. standards of detainee treatment," Donaghue said.

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