Forensic Investigation of Mass Grave KAR0024, Karbala Province, Iraq


Executive Summary:

1. Tar-as-Saiyid is a prominent escarpment located in a remote desert area approximately 27 kilometers southwest of the city of Karbala. The escarpment lies along an area that was previously the site of an Iraqi military range in a region also known as Tall Tar and Ashwah. The I Marine Expeditionary Force, Task Force Justice (I MEF), the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), and Inforce Foundation investigated several sites in the area in 2003.

2. On 14 May 2006, following a site reconnaissance on 06-07 April 2006 and an order to proceed from the Regime Crime Liaison Office (RCLO), the RCLO/Mass Graves Investigation Team (MGIT) equipment convoy arrived at the site and began construction of an Archaeological Expeditionary Camp (AEC). Members of the excavation team arrived on 19 May and 23 May 2006. The two objectives assigned to the MGIT were to 1) conduct an archaeological survey of the area to identify nearby sites and potential mass graves; and 2) excavate any identified mass graves.

3. The survey encompassed 21 features. Four of these contained human remains: Feature 1 (KAR0008), Feature 4 (KAR0024), Feature 12 (KAR0007) and Feature 13 (KAR0025).

4. KAR0008 was a mass grave located on the escarpment containing 29 individuals. This site is addressed in a separate report.

5. KAR0007 and KAR00025 were disturbed mass graves located in defensive fighting positions. These sites are addressed in a separate report.

6. KAR0024, located in a wadi, was an execution site containing the disarticulated and commingled remains representing a minimum of 12 individuals. The site was identified by the MGIT during the archaeological survey and had not been previously reported. Site work began 26 May and ended 15 June 2006. The site was backfilled 16 June 2006.

7. At the RCLO/MGIT Forensic Analysis Facility (FAF), forensic anthropological analyses were conducted on the skeletal remains recovered from KAR0024. Because the remains from the site were commingled, fragmented and incomplete the MGIT developed a new system with which to analyze the commingled human remains The system was designed to produce more data than the standard, baseline inventory and to provide the Iraqi High Tribunal with an assessment of the forensic significance of the recovered human remains. The MGIT classified skeletal remains that the laboratory determined to represent the partial remains of one individual as 65 skeletal groups. The 14 groups containing skeletal elements with associated cultural objects were classified as Analytic Units. The 41 groups vi containing re-articulated skeletal elements from one individual with no associated cultural objects were classified as Skeletal Sets. Finally, skeletal elements that could not be reassociated with other elements were grouped with other like elements by anatomical region in ten Skeletal Categories. The Forensic Anthropology Laboratory (FAL) then assigned each group a Forensic Significance Level (FSL) that indicated the severity of the trauma, based on the location of the injury.

8. The human remains from KAR0024 consisted of 1,793 skeletal elements representing a minimum of 12 individuals, two of them adolescent. The demographic profile consisted of predominantly unsexed or ambiguous human remains. The skeletal groups that could be sexed were predominantly adult males or probable males. One appeared female, and three others appeared probably female but may have represented gracile males. The human remains exhibited 81 perimortem injuries, 64 of which were due to gunshot. Fifty-four perimortem trauma were to the head, neck or torso; 38 of these were gunshot trauma.

9. The Cultural Objects Laboratory analyzed articles of clothing and other personal effects from KAR0024. Because of the commingled nature of the assemblages, only some of the clothing and other cultural objects could be associated with the recovered individuals. Many of the cultural objects recovered were fragmentary and incomplete. The cultural objects recovered from KAR0024 consisted primarily of clothing. A minimum of nine individuals were represented by male dish dashas and twelve by shoes. KAR0024 also contained 16 possible restraints, seven consistent with blindfolds and nine with ligatures.

10. A Forensic Pathologist examined photographs, radiographs, and analyses prepared by the Forensic Anthropologists. The Forensic Pathologist agreed with the assessment of KAR0024 as a primary execution site, and ruled that the skeletal groups recovered represented individuals whose cause of death was gunshot and whose manner of death was homicide.

11. The material discussed above was documented using a variety of methods designed to ensure the security and integrity of all evidence. Project documentation recorded descriptive information and analyses, and tracked the movement of evidence through an internal tracking system. Databases were maintained for encrypted digital images and for archiving data from forms produced by the technical analyses. All documentation created during the analysis, including field documentation, written evidence pertaining to chain of custody, and transfer of custody from field to laboratory, was organized into files. All laboratory documents were compiled in the file by subject matter, including archaeology, anthropology, cultural objects, radiography, pathology, and digital imaging. MGIT personnel reviewed the files for accuracy and file security was paramount throughout the process. As the final step in this process, the original files were submitted to the RCLO Secure Evidence Unit (SEU) in Baghdad, Iraq.

Cite this Record

Forensic Investigation of Mass Grave KAR0024, Karbala Province, Iraq. Michael K. Trimble, Mark A. Smith, David Z. C. Hines, Nancy J. Brighton, Caroline Steele. Mass Graves Investigations ,Vol. 7. St. Louis, MO: US Army Corps of Engineers Mandatory Center of Expertise for the Curation and Management of Archaeological Collections, St. Louis District. 2007 ( tDAR id: 392863) ; doi:10.6067/XCV8SN09W7

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections

Temporal Coverage

Calendar Date: 1968 to 2003 (Presidency of Saddam Hussein)

Spatial Coverage

min long: 43.745; min lat: 32.44 ; max long: 43.823; max lat: 32.502 ;

Record Identifiers

Contract No.(s): W912ER-04-D-0007, Task Order 4

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Contact(s): US Army Corps of Engineers Mandatory Center of Expertise for the Curation and Management of Archaeological Collections, St. Louis District