Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Docs Say U.S. Hides Evidence of Mass Graves in Afghanistan

Courthouse News Service

WASHINGTON (CN) - The CIA, FBI and State Department are blowing off FOIA requests about mass graves in Afghanistan where the bodies of 2,000 Taliban soldiers who had surrendered were buried in December 2001, Physicians for Human Rights claims in Federal Court.
After several news stories were published confirming the mass graves and suggesting that members of the U.S. military may have seen the burials, Physicians for Human Rights submitted Freedom of Information Act requests, seeking evidence of war crimes.
The nonprofit says Uncle Sam repeatedly refused to deliver documents, saying, among other things, that the information was classified or unsearchable.
Several thousand Taliban fight surrendered to the Northern Alliance, a U.S. ally, in Konduz, Afghanistan, in late 2001, according to contemporary reports. The Taliban fighters were packed into flatbed-truck shipping containers and driven more than 200 miles to a prison in Sheberghan. As many as 2000 suffocated and died during the trip, and their bodies were dumped in mass graves in Dasht-e-Leili, according to media reports from early 2002.
"According to reports, U.S. forces were providing security at the Sheberghan prison when some of the container trucks arrived there," the complaint states.
Physicians for Human Rights says it sent teams to the site to investigate and asked the Pentagon for records.
The Pentagon released a Department of State intelligence assessment from November 2002, "advising government officials that the remains of between 1,500 and 2,000 individuals were deposited at the site, and that approximately four Afghans who witnessed the death of the prisoners and/or the disposal of their remains had been detained, tortured, killed, and/or disappeared," according to the complaint.
The doctors group says that knowledge of the mass graves was "widespread" in the U.S. government, and that the graves were recently exhumed, leaving little or no evidence.
The group wants to see the documents. It is represented by Peter Brody of Ropes Gray.

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