Forensic Investigation of a Mass Grave Complex, Maysan Province, Iraq


1. Maysan 0003 is a mass grave complex near the city of Al Amarah, Mayan Province, Iraq. The site was located by a British military patrol in late May 2003. Head Quarters 1st United Kingdom Armored Division (HQ 1 UK ARMD DIV) advised the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF), Task Force Justice (TFJ) that victims from the 1991 uprising had been shot and buried at the site. TFJ performed a map reconnaissance on 14 June 2003 and a site reconnaissance on 15 June 2003. A local farmer and other witnesses substantiated the information provided by HQ 1st UK ARMD DIV. At the time of the investigation, the site already displayed evidence of excavation with heavy equipment. On 20 June 2003, a member of the Iraqi Liberated Prison Society (ILPS), a human rights group, advised TFJ that the victims were civilians executed during the 1991 uprising. The ILPS provided interviews and documents from the Ministry of Intelligence in Baghdad to support this claim. TFJ conducted test digs at the gravesite. The results and locations of the TFJ tests are unknown. The investigation then passed to the War Crimes Investigation Team, 3rd Military Police Group, which initiated an investigation on 8 Aug 2003 and finalized it on 17 September 2003. See CID Report of Investigation-Final (C)-0227-03-CID039-64656-5H1A/5X1/9H/9J

2. On 18 May 2005, following a 25 April reconnaissance, the Regime Crimes Liaison Office Iraq Mass Graves Team (RCLO/IMGT) began preparatory work, including site survey and feature indentification, at Maysan 0003. Iraqi High Tribunal (IHT) members visited the site on 22 May 2005 and officially sanctioned excavation. The IMGT then excavated 28 test trenches to locate human remains not recovered by Iraqi excavations in 2003. Four individual were exhumed at Maysan 0003 were completed on 12 November 2005.

3. Articles of clothing from Maysan 0003 were used to identify ethnicity, age, and sex. Three of the four individuals examined were associated with traditional Arab clothing. The remaining individual wore trousers. All wore male underpants. Based upon sex-appropriate clothing style and size, the clothing recovered was identified with four adult males. Personal effects comprising a blanket, coins, and unidentified metal were associated with another. A bullet was associated with one case and ten cartridge casings were associated with another. Possible projectile defects were present in the garments of two cases.

4. Four hundred sixty-one (461) cartridge casings, 185 projectiles, and 8 complete cartridges were recorded into a Geographic Information System (GIS). One hundred sixty one point locations for unassociated remains were also mapped. Spatial analysis indicated that the three features that had strong evidence for previously containing human remains also had the strongest evidence for shooting activity. Based on satellite images, open trenches corresponded to these features and were visible on the site before the Iraqi excavations of 2003. This is consistent with the existence of mass graves at those locations at one time. The satellite images indicate that the features, likely defensive emplacements, pre-dated the burials, and were opportunistically employed for that purpose, being only partially filled following the burials.

5. At the RCLO/IMGT FAF, forensic anthropologists conducted analyses of the skeletal remains of the four individuals recovered from Maysan0003. Osteological analyses revealed that all four individuals were adults, three of whom were male and the fourth was a probable male. One individual was in his twenties, while others were in their mid-thirties to fifties.

6. A forensic pathologist examined all of the individuals recovered at Maysan0003. Of the four individuals examined, three had perimortem trauma to cranial or postcranial remains. All observed perimortem trauma was consistent with gunshot. Each individual who had been shot suffered two gunshot wounds. The three gunshot cases were rules homicides. The fourth case was ruled undetermined.

7. Material from Maysan0003 was documented using a variety of methods designed to ensure the security and integrity of the evidence. Project documentation recorded descriptive information and analyses, and tracked the movement of evidence. Databases were maintained to encrypt digital images and for archiving data from forms. All original documentation created during the analysis was organized in the individual case files. These files contain field documentation, including written evidence pertaining to chain of custody, and transfer of custody from field to laboratory. Internal tracking was maintained in the laboratory to monitor the movement of evidence in the FAF. All laboratory documents were compiled in the case file by subject matter. The sections include archaeology, anthropology, cultural objects, recovered documents, radiography, pathology, and digital imaging. Case files were reviewed by personnel for accuracy throughout the process. File security was paramount. As the final step in this process, the original case files were submitted to the RCLO Secure Evidence Unit (SEU) in Baghdad, Iraq.

Cite this Record

Forensic Investigation of a Mass Grave Complex, Maysan Province, Iraq. Michael K. Trimble, Caroline Steele, Susan Malin-Boyce, David Z. C. Hines. Mass Graves Investigations ,Vol. 3. St. Louis, MO: US Army Corps of Engineers Mandatory Center of Expertise for the Curation and Management of Archaeological Collections, St. Louis District. 2006 ( tDAR id: 425539) ; doi:10.6067/XCV8DZ0BFJ

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections

Spatial Coverage

min long: 47.307; min lat: 30.6 ; max long: 48.582; max lat: 31.728 ;

Record Identifiers

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

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