Iraq News

HRW urges help for Syrians excavating al-Raqa mass graves

Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Tuesday (July 3rd) urged the international community to support Syrians excavating mass graves in al-Raqa after the city was liberated from the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS).

Fighters backed by international coalition airstrikes expelled ISIS from the city in October, leaving the al-Raqa City Council to run it.

HRW said council workers with little specialised equipment or experience in forensic analysis were struggling to tackle the mammoth mission of exhuming the dead.

"Al-Raqa city has at least nine mass graves, each one estimated to have dozens, if not hundreds, of bodies, making exhumations a monumental task," said HRW's Priyanka Motaparthy.

"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."

"International organisations with forensic expertise should provide technical support, including by sending in forensic experts," HRW said.

Authorities should set up a civilian authority to liaise with the families of the missing, and create a digital database including photographs of those exhumed, it said.

"Identifying missing people and preserving evidence for possible prosecutions will have implications for justice in Syria as a whole," the rights group said.

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