Somaliland: Yearning for Justice a Decent Burial


Going down memory lane to this IRIN in-depth article on the massacres of the Siad Barre published on 1 May 2001

Milk factory where bodies were buried

Somalilandsun – When heavy rains in 1997 exposed bones, ropes, broken skulls and torn pieces of clothing in shallow graves in Hargeisa, capital of the self-declared state of Somaliland, northwestern Somalia, it set in motion the rudimentary beginnings of an international investigation into alleged war crimes.

At the request of an independent expert of the UN Commission on Human Rights, an international forensic team, provided by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), came to Somaliland in December 1997. Two North American forensic experts were shown more than 100 alleged mass-grave sites. After preliminary investigations, the team reported that some of the sites did indeed exhibit characteristics of mass graves and contained evidence of gross human rights abuses. It recommended that the sites be preserved, and an international team of forensic specialists be authorised by the UN to carry out further investigations.

Graves investigated by the 1997 team revealed individual remains that were “tightly grouped and bound to each other by… rope binding their wrists together behind their back, with the rope connecting them to each other in a line” the report said. Test excavations at another site discovered “patterned impressions on the floor of the grave… consistent with the grave having been dug by an earth-moving machine.”

The Somaliland administration, headed by Muhammed Ibrahim Egal, set up a local Technical Committee for the Investigation of War Crimes of the Siyad Barre Regime to collect documentation, take testimonies, and preserve the sites where mass graves were known and alleged to be.

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Part Two: The need for peace and justice

 Part Three: Creating a culture of impunity

Part Four: Personal account: Bulldozer driver

Part Five: Dilemmas of the reconciliation process

Part Six: Disappearing evidence