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.
Archeological 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.