Iraq Mass Graves Team

  • Oblique view of landscape situation of Mut0002 grave complex (x5 vertical exaggerations)

  • Aerial view of gravesite and archaeological expeditionary camp

  • Plan view of grave complex showing location of shell casings and surface disturbances

  • Field team members uncovering human remains at grave site

  • Field team members mapping evidence

  • 3-D model of individuals as recovered from grave site created within project GIS

  • 3-D view of grave and surface as mapped showing (a) shallow nature of grave and (b) ballistic evidence recovered (projectiles and shell casings)

  • Plan of grave trench showing individual remains as mapped categorized by number of projectile trauma

  • Synthetic model of events

  • Reconstruction of crime scene based upon the evidence recovered

Iraq Mass Graves Team

After the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003, the extent of a systematic campaign of mass exterminations was exposed by United States and Iraqi authorities.

In June 2004, the United States Department of Justice, Regime Crimes Liaison Office (RCLO), Baghdad, tasked the United States Army Corp of Engineers, St. Louis District, Mandatory Center of Expertise for Archaeological Curation and Collections Management (MCX), to organize an archaeological team to undertake a large-scale exhumation and forensic analysis mission. The objective was to collect evidence in support of the prosecutions of former regime leaders. The ongoing trials are structured, in large part, by the results of these efforts. GRA participated in the mass graves recovery efforts, from 2005 through 2007, in various managerial capacities, working directly with the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, St. Louis District, for the RCLO.

Archaeological forensics provided the umbrella for an efficient interdisciplinary strategy. This strategy began with remote sensing, geophysical prospection, and site discovery followed by systematic grave sampling, GIS based mapping, and rapid but meticulously provenienced data recovery including secure chain of evidence and custody. Subsequent in-country physical anthropology and material analyses provided prosecutors with evidence and expert testimony. Finally, a major emphasis was place on reconciling victims’ remains with families and tribal groups to provide some measure of closure to these tragic events.