Mass graves – Afghanistan
Disappearances, summary executions and mass killings have occurred throughout all phases of Afghanistan’s conflict over the past few decades. Afghanistan’s oral tradition means that there is often little distinction between eyewitness and hearsay accounts of the alleged crimes behind Afghanistan’s many mass graves. Narratives of events are frequently constructed by community consensus, resulting in individuals narrating accounts as if they had been an eyewitness to events, when in fact they may not have been. The existence of mass graves across Afghanistan provides evidence not only of the fate of the disappeared and murdered, but also the factual circumstances of their deaths.
AFSO was founded as an organization dedicated to the documentation, protection and preservation of Afghanistan’s mass graves.
AFSO commenced its activities by raising awareness of the importance of forensic methods in dealing with mass graves. Since then AFSO has conducted forensic documentation of 17 mass graves in Balkh, Kunar, Bamyan, Badakhshan and Herat provinces. In addition to the 17 mass grave sites documented, AFSO has received information of dozens of other alleged mass grave sites throughout Afghanistan.
AFSO has been called in to assess several mass graves that were unearthed mainly during construction in Kabul, Balkh and Nangarhar provinces. In these circumstances AFSO’s intervention has prevented the mass graves from destruction and further damage.
AFSO regularly conducts workshops with a range of stakeholders including police, prosecutors, judges, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, civil society activists and universities on the issue of mass graves.
In April 2012, AFSO conducted a workshop at the Afghan National Police Academy for 180 police chiefs from all over Afghanistan. The workshop covered awareness of the importance of forensic methods in dealing with mass graves; forensic documentation of mass graves; what needs to be done by the police when a mass grave is found; and how to secure mass graves.
AFSO has also developed a number of brochures and presentations on the importance of forensic methods in dealing with mass graves and forensic documentation of mass graves.
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