Somaliland: Unearthing Evidence of War crimes;Updates

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JP showing Hibaaq a Somali student the ins and outs of vertebrae reconstruction.Relatives Look for Answers

Posted by Franco Mora

A lady came to the exhumation because she wanted to give us antemortem information. I spoke to her in English, and a person from the War Crimes Investigation Commission translated to Somali. I started telling her, “I’m a forensic anthropologist, and I am working trying to recover the bodies buried in this place.” Then I asked her if she wanted to see the grave to know exactly how we were working; we walked together into the grave. She stood and looked, stared at the grave. I asked her if she wanted to pray, and suddenly she started to cry. I felt so bad. We don’t speak the same language, but I could feel the same pain.

This work has these moments. You think you’re accustomed to it, but it’s not true. And it is in that moment when your work becomes personal, because now our challenge is to make our best effort to try to identify somebody and give them back to their beloved relatives. My mind has not stopped thinking about that woman, about her pain. She doesn’t know how her relative was dressed that day (November 17th, 1984); she was at the hospital giving birth. Someone told her that he was detained with many others and taken away to Badkha (meaning the execution place) and buried there. That day 41 people were murdered. She was looking for her husband.

Franco Mora / Forensic Archeologist – Peruvian Forensic Anthropology Team

First Mass Grave Excavated

Posted by Franco Mora

After two weeks of continuous hard work we finally finished with mass grave 1. We recovered a total of 12 bodies, and now we are working in the lab. We want to try to establish not only the most probable cause of death, but also try to identify someone. This would contribute to the right to know of their relatives and so close their cycle of mourning after more than 20 years.

-Franco Mora

Forensic Archaeologist of Peruvian Forensic Anthropology Team

P.S. We are still working to recover more bodies from the mass grave 2.

Muted Voices

Posted by Derek O’Neill

Over the past week the team has worked to wrap up the first mass grave identification. As we began to exhume the remains of the last individual of the grave, I began to prepare the remains for photography. However, during the next trowel of sand I struck a set of Carpal bones which exposed the hand of a yet unseen victim – number 11 for this grave at that point.

These victims were silenced in a brutal manner and their voices muted. However, through these ongoing efforts we aspire to give them a voice, dignity, and closure.

-Derek O’Neill

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