Somaliland: Unearthing Evidence of War Crimes


 Day 2 Found Grave

With CJA’s sponsorship, the Peruvian Forensic Anthropology Team and the government of the Republic of Somaliland have opened an international forensic training program in Hargeisa, Somaliland. The project runs from September 24 through October 21, 2012. Participants in this historic effort will share their experience with the rest of the world throughout that time. Their posts will inform and reflect on the search for the missing and disappeared, giving readers a window into the process of fact-finding and forensic investigation of human rights violations in Somaliland that will allow access to truth and justice for the families of the victims.

-Wendy Slavica

Day 1: Clearing the site and opening ceremony by Minister of Justice Mohamed Hussein Aideed26 September 2012 10:00After a moving

ceremony this morning, we began the process of exhumation at the site known as

Badkha 2.

Day 2: Finding the grave27 September 2012 10:00 It was a rewarding day here in Hargeisa for the team: Two burials were uncovered shortly after lunch within the excavation.   Present to witness this were many family members of the missing and murdered persons, community members and the War Crimes Commission.   Being able

to work side by side with the War Crimes Commission trainees has made me feel less like an outsider and more as a collaborator in a much bigger picture.

   -Wendy, Archaeologist

-Jose Pablo Baraybar

Day 3: Unearthing a Smile28 September 2012 10:00 This experience has been so far the most wonderful, terrifying, and exciting thing I have ever done. To be able to change someone’s fate by retrieving them from a pit of horror and return them to their family and loved ones for a future with a proper burial full of respect and love is the most honourable thing I have ever had the opportunity to partake in. I mean yes, you can say it is spooky or even that we are weird for traveling thousands of kilometres and crossing an ocean to spend time with dead people… But the people who say those things have only a partial view of what we do. We are reuniting families, giving explanations for what has happened to somebody’s somebody, and interpreting the past.   It is a rush that motivates you from your inner core and moves you to keep going, keep learning, keep pursuing the truth. The people who do this as part of their daily lives are anything but weird and are not scared off by the spooky; they are heroic, and we are lucky to have been given the chance to work beside them.

The first skull we recovered was at first a little unnerving. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to sleep without seeing it in my dreams, but then I noticed his teeth were perfectly straight, and I thought to myself, he must have had a nice smile. His shirt has cuffs like mine, and it was the same colour as the one my boyfriend was wearing before I left for this amazing journey. Then I heard Franco say he looks young, like a teenager, and I thought that if that had been my fate I would hope someone would come find me and give me the respect I deserve by putting me in a proper resting place

EPAF – CJA Somaliland Field School Blog

     Day 4: Further Excavations29 September 2012 10:00The remains of a toddler were found; our War Crimes team member prepares for her graduation from university tomorrow. Somaliland knows how to regroup, heal, and move forward while looking out for those who couldn’t make it to that graduation.

-Wendy Slavica

On Friday, families showed up at the site for an antemortem interview. The grave is being excavated and the bodies of at least five people are visible.

-Jose Pablo Baraybar