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Monday, 11 February, 2002, 07:12 GMT
Mass grave found in northern Iraq
Mass grave near Sulaymaniyah
Three other mass graves were found in the area
By the BBC's Hiwa Osman

Six bodies were found yesterday in a mass grave outside the city of Sulaymaniyah in Iraq's Kurdish region.

Sulaymaniyah-based satellite TV KurdSat reported that initial evidence indicate that the six young men, who were wearing traditional Kurdish costume, were executed by firing squads in 1983

Forensic experts were working on identifying the bodies, which showed signs of bullet wounds.

The Kurdish authorities in the region said that the grave, discovered two days ago, was the fourth mass grave to be found in the ground of Sardaw military camp - set up by the Iraqi Army in 1982.

Bakhtiar Amin, the head of the Washington-based International Alliance for Justice (IAJ), told BBC News Online that the discovery of this new mass grave "is additional evidence of Saddam Hussein and his regime's crimes of genocide and crimes against humanity".

The IAJ is an alliance of more than 260 non-governmental organisations from 120 countries and is calling for an expert commission under a UN mandate to study the available evidence and decide whether there is a case for crimes against humanity in Iraq.

The discovery of this new mass grave is additional evidence of Saddam Hussein and his regime's crimes of genocide and crimes against humanity

Bakhtiar Amin

According to news agencies, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iraq, Andreas Mavrommatis, is expected to arrive in Iraq this week to spend several days on an "exploratory mission".

"We condemn this atrocity", said Bakhtiar Amin, "and call upon Andreas Mavrommatis to visit the mass grave and to bring up the fate of the disappeared people with the Iraqi Government."

The Kurdish region of Iraq has been controlled by the Kurds since 1991 when the US and UK established the safe haven.

Before the Gulf War, the area was under Baghdad's control and the government suppressed the Kurdish population through summary executions, forced disappearances and use of chemical weapons.

Drawing on eyewitness accounts and documents seized from Iraqi security during the Gulf War uprising, international organisations estimate that 182,000 people, mostly men, were forced from the Kurdish areas and buried alive in mass graves in the southern deserts.

The Iraqi Government refuses to confirm the fate of the missing people, despite repeated requests from Kurdish officials.

See also:

03 Nov 01 | Middle East
Iraqi Kurds' story of expulsion
31 Aug 01 | Middle East
Iraqi Kurds face uncertain future
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