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12/29/03 - THE MASS GRAVES IN IRAQ - 2003-12-30

The Coalition Provisional Authority and the interim Iraqi Human Rights Ministry are now in the process of identifying the remains of those killed by the regime of Saddam Hussein. Evidence of atrocities is being collected for future prosecutions.

Over one-million Iraqis are believed to have been killed by the Saddam Hussein regime. More than two-hundred-fifty mass grave sites have been reported. These include the graves of as many as one-hundred-eighty-thousand Iraqis killed by the regime during the 1988 Anfal campaign which targeted Iraqi Kurds. Thousands of other Iraqis, including Marsh Arabs, Shia Muslims, and students involved in uprisings against the regime may also be lying in Iraq’s mass graves.

But Saddam’s capture has given the Iraqi people hope for a brighter future, and they are expressing their joy. Shaima Qasim told a reporter, “I used to wear only black. Now I want to wear colors.” Issan Fadil, a Baghdad restaurant owner, said, “We are happy that the oppressor is no longer on the loose.” And Ali Mohammed, of Kirkuk, said, “Divine justice has prevailed.”

As President George W. Bush said, Saddam Hussein in custody "marks the end...for all who bullied and killed in his name”:

“For the vast majority of Iraqi citizens who wish to live as free men and women, this event brings further assurance that the torture chambers and the secret police are gone forever.”

Iraqis are working to centralize information on missing persons and how they will prosecute the perpetrators of crimes against humanity.