Iraqi Authorities, in Cooperation with UNITAD, Complete the Excavation of a Mass Grave Site of ISIL Victims in Anbar

Baghdad, 7 October 2021 – Iraqi authorities completed the excavation of a mass grave site in Bir Mantiqa al-Halwat, Anbar Governorate left by ISIL in October 2014. These efforts were done in cooperation with the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/ISIL (UNITAD). The site of the mass grave excavation was selected according with the Joint Mass Graves Investigations Strategy adopted by Iraqi authorities and UNITAD in September 2020.

In parallel, the Iraqi authorities also concluded a campaign to enable the relatives of the victims to register their family members as missing and provide DNA samples to identify the human remains.

Specialists from Iraq’s Mass Graves Directorate (MGD), Medico-Legal Directorate (MLD) and UNITAD, under the supervision and support of the National Coordinating Committee, with the help of the Ministry of Environment’s Directorate of Mine Action, all worked closely together to ensure the human remains, and evidence are collected in line with international standards. The joint endeavor between Iraqi authorities and UNITAD, is critical to the success of excavation and investigation of mass graves left by ISIL.

“The marriage of expertise, training and mentoring in the application of innovative techniques and equipment such as 3D laser scanning, deep rooted knowledge of ISIL crimes committed in the context of Iraq, understanding of the complexity of mass grave crime scenes and outreach and engagement with local communities contributes to establishing the evidence-based narrative of the crimes committed and supports the scientific effort to establish the identity of victims” said Caroline Barker, Head of UNITAD’s Forensic Anthropology and Archaeology Unit.

The campaign to collect DNA samples from families of ISIL victims was conducted in tandem with excavation activities and organized by the MLD in cooperation with MGD. A general invite was sent out to the families of the victims of Al-Bu Nimr tribe from the District of Hit to attend the Anbar Health Directorate center, from the period of September 21 – 28. The Iraqi authorities are committed to receiving all information on family members missing as a result of ISIL crimes. The collection of evidentiary material, be it the forensic evidence excavated in the field at the mass grave site, or the DNA samples collected at the Anbar Health Directorate are indispensable to gathering concrete evidence and piecing together the narrative around the atrocities ISIL committed in Al-Bu Nimr.

According to Mr. Dia’ Sa’idi, Director of MGD: “the excavations resulted in documenting all which is related to the crime scene, as well as all the evidence that will be transmitted according to the original records of seizure and disclosure to the relevant courts to enable the judiciary to identify and hold the perpetrators accountable and provide redress to the families of the victims”.

The identification of the remains, and their return to their families is also important to bringing a sense of peace or closure to family members who lost their loved ones at the hands of ISIL members. Ultimately, the remains of these victims will be returned to their families where they would receive proper and dignified burial according to traditions and beliefs.