Thursday, July 23, 2009

PHR on NPR's Fresh Air: "A Mass Grave In Afghanistan Raises Questions"

In April 2002, Physicians for Human Rights forensic experts dug a test trench as part of a preliminary investigation for the UN at the Dasht-e-Leili mass grave site near Sheberghan, Afghanistan, and exposed 15 bodies. (Physicians for Human Rights, used by permission)

Nathaniel Raymond, Dr. Jennifer Leaning, and Dr. Nizam Peerwani of Physicians for Human Rights were interviewed on NPR's Fresh Air program earlier today. If one goes to this link, you can listen to the entire interview (33 min.). Mr. Raymond led the investigation into the alleged 2001 Dasht-e-Leili massacre in Afghanistan. In the interview, he links the issue of accountability from the crimes of U.S.-backed warlords to the years of torture practiced by the United States.

The NPR lead-in is as follows:
In 2001, shortly after the American invasion of Afghanistan, hundreds or possibly thousands of Taliban and Al Qaeda prisoners surrendered to Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, an Afghan warlord on the payroll of the C.I.A.

Over the course of three days, the captured prisoners were allegedly packed into shipping containers without food or water. Many suffocated, while others were reportedly shot by guards.

The mass grave has never been fully exhumed, and human rights groups allege that the Bush administration discouraged investigation of the matter, even after the urging of officials from the F.B.I., the State Department and the Red Cross.
The PHR interview comes on the heels of new questions about U.S. involvement in the massacre aired by Mark Benjamin in an article at
Earlier this month, Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter James Risen advanced the story, revealing that the United States had resisted any war crimes investigation into the massacre, despite learning from Dell Spry, the lead FBI agent at Guantánamo Bay following the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, that many Afghan detainees were telling similar stories of a mass killing. Spry directed interviews of detainees by FBI agents at Guantánamo Bay, and compiled allegations made by the detainees.

But what the Times did not report was that many of those same detainees also alleged to Spry's interviewers that U.S. personnel were present during the massacre, a potentially explosive allegation that, if true, might further explain American resistance to a war crimes probe of the deaths. In an exclusive interview, Spry told Salon that he informed Risen about the additional allegation that U.S. forces were present. Risen confirmed to Salon that Spry told him of the allegations, but said he did not publish them, in part, because he didn't believe them.
Whatever the facts of the case, it's clear that, as PHR's Raymond points out, we don't the full story of what happened. President Obama has taken some preliminary steps by calling for his "national security team" to review the facts of the case. A full investigation is imperative. Evidence at the grave site has already been tampered with, and witnesses tortured and killed.

As Raymond said in a PHR press release late last week:
"... a full, formal and transparent investigation into the allegations against Dostum and the evidence that the Bush Administration impeded at least three federal probes into the case must be launched by the US and Afghanistan. Witnesses must be protected and the Dasht-e-Leili site must be secured.”
Donate now to help get this story out there and help bring about a full investigation.

1 comment:

Michael Tuck said...

I guess if I found 15 bodies buried in my backyard, I'd have questions too. We need answers, not grave statements about how we still have questions.

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