Human Rights |

In Iraq, burial of unidentified bodies renews calls for investigation

By Faris al-Omran

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Fighters from Iran-backed Iraqi militia Harakat al-Nujaba are seen on July 24th on the outskirts of Baghdad in this photo, posted online by the militia.

Iraqi rights groups have said they hope efforts will continue to identify the bodies discovered in various parts of Babil province after dozens were buried this week, including those of women and children.

The issue of their fate cannot be buried along with the victims, they said, calling for the government to continue to work on identifying both the victims and perpetrators, and urging family members of the missing to come forward.

The unidentified bodies buried over the weekend "have been found over the last three years in different parts of Babil province", said Ali al-Bayati, spokesman for Iraq's Independent High Commission for Human Rights.

They had been deposited with Babil's Forensic Medicine Department before a charitable organisation received them on Saturday (August 10th) and buried them in a cemetery in Karbala province, he said in a statement.

"DNA testing has been carried out on the remains, and they were buried according to the law," al-Bayati said.

"A committee of the concerned authorities in Babil province has been set up to follow the developments in the matter," he said, and the Independent High Commission for Human Rights "will follow up with that committee".

Ninawa tribal spokesman Sheikh Muzahim al-Huweit told Diyaruna on Tuesday that 31 bodies have been buried, according to public accounts.

None of the bodies have been identified, he said, with the exception of one -- an Iraqi man named as Mohammed Hamed Ghaith.

"The bodies included women and children, most probably from areas in northern Babil, most notably Jarf al-Sakhr, and from other provinces such as Ninawa and Anbar," he said.

He said it was likely the victims had been targeted by Iran-backed Iraqi militias.

Militias suspected in slayings

"During the war against the 'Islamic State of Iraq and Syria' (ISIS) and after it, the militias abducted large numbers of citizens from Jarf al-Sakhr as well as from al-Razaza (Anbar) and the Ninawa Plain," al-Huweit said.

They were transferred to secret prisons run by these militias, he said, including one operated by Iran-aligned Kataib Hizbullah in the Jarf al-Sakhr area.

Some of those who went missing are believed to have been assassinated at different times, he said, noting that the discovery of the bodies "gives an indication that these militias have committed many massacres against civilians".

"We have information indicating that some of them may be buried in mass graves in the area of ​​Jarf al-Sakhr, but we do not know how many or the exact location of these graves," al-Huweit said.

In a Monday statement, Independent High Commission for Human Rights member Thamir al-Shammari called for "an investigation to uncover the circumstances, the fate, and the facts pertaining to these bodies".

The al-Qarar al-Iraqi coalition meanwhile urged the government to "open an investigation into the reasons for the loss of these lives".

It is necessary to find out "who are the criminals who carry out these massacres away from the control of the state and the law", the coalition said in a statement.

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