Exhumation of a Mass Grave in Bamyan City
Saturday 6th August, 2016
This week, AFSO and its partners at Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) are hosting a forensic anthropology training exercise in Bamyan province, which includes the exhumation of a partially-disturbed mass grave. Afghanistan has suffered many years of conflict and human rights violations. The existence of a large numbers of mass graves – some of them documented by AFSO – are evidence of the atrocities committed. Across Afghanistan, mass graves have been destroyed and human remains desecrated in the process. The training exercise in Bamyan brings together a multidisciplinary team, including AFSO members, police, archaeologists, doctors, lawyers, university lecturers, prosecutors, and human rights investigators.
The training is being conducted at a mass grave in Dasht-e-Esa Khan in Bamyan province. The grave was unprofessionally excavated last year with authorization from a religious official, destroying parts of the grave site and leaving human remains scattered around the area. As part of this week’s training, PHR experts and AFSO staff have professionally exhumed what is left of the grave and recovered the rest of the human remains, including some complete parts of a human skeleton.
At a press conference at the site, we will explain the consequences of unprofessional excavations of mass graves, and using the remains we recovered, we will show how much evidence can be obtained when an exhumation is conducted using sound forensic techniques. AFSO is the first and only non-governmental forensic science organization with expertise in mass grave exhumation in the country. AFSO is willing to assist the government of Afghanistan in addressing the issue of mass graves, and is prepared to conduct emergency exhumations when a mass grave is in danger of being destroyed.
AFSO is concerned about the unprofessional excavation of mass graves such as the site in Dashte-e-Esa. We recommend the following:
- The Afghan government should act immediately to protect all mass graves in Afghanistan.
- Local municipalities must inform all construction companies and individual builders to halt any construction activities upon encountering human remains or mass graves and inform the police.
- Authorities should prosecute individuals who destroy or disturb mass graves, as it is a violation of the criminal code.
- Physicians for Human Rights has trained AFSO’s experts in forensic documentation, including how to properly exhume mass graves. AFSO’s work on mass graves and other related projects has been internationally recognized as legitimate. When appropriate, the Afghan government should use AFSO’s expertise and also its access to international experts when dealing with mass graves.
- The Ulema and religious authorities must stop issuing authorization for mass grave exhumation, as it is a judicial matter not a religious one, as outlined in article one, section one of the Civil Code.
- All parties should respect the Criminal Procedure Code, which authorizes only relevant official courts to issue exhumation authorizations to teams of forensic experts.
A short video: