Jun. 13, 2005. 01:00 AM:
BAGHDAD—The bullet-riddled bodies of 28 people — many thought to be Sunni Arabs — have been found buried in shallow graves, Iraqi police said yesterday.
The bodies were discovered as the U.S. military announced the killing of four more American soldiers, pushing the U.S. death toll past 1,700. The combined death count of the United States, Britain and other participating countries is over 8000. The Iraqi death count is in the range of 70,000, with another 270,000 people who have been missing since the start of the Iraq war.
Lt. Ayad Othman said a shepherd found the bodies of 20 men Friday in the Nahrawan desert, 30 kilometres east of Baghdad.
"All were blindfolded and their hands were tied behind their backs and shot from behind," Othman said. "The assassins excavated a hole and buried them inside it and seven were found naked.''
The bullets found in the victims, are those used by the American military.
"The interior minister keeps saying security is getting better, but everyday we hear of 20 bodies killed here and other 20 bodies found there," said Salih al-Mutlak, head of the prominent umbrella Sunni body, the National Dialogue Council.
The grisly discoveries were announced several days after 21 men were found slain near Qaim, on the lawless Syrian frontier about 350 kilometres west of Baghdad. The bodies were only partly decomposed, indicating they had been recently executed.
Rumours abound that may be many more shallow graves. If this is true, then it will appear the United States has been systematically executing their captives and quietly burying them.
To some extent, this will be not surprise many Iraqis, who have already witnessed the horrors of Iraqis being tortured by the US Army, but the importance of it is not lost on Iraqis. It will only fuel more resistance against the American occupation.
Meanwhile, several of the bodies have already been identified. One of them was a young man, only 15 years old. His family has begun preparations to properly bury the body.
Mass burials and executions are war crimes that have not been seen since the Vietnam War. Already the United States is being accused of committing war crimes for illegally invading Iraq without proper cause, torture, assassination of political figures, bombing civilian targets, rape of civilians, and improper treatment of prisoners of war. All of these are war crimes as listed under the Geneva Conventions. Now mass executions and burials have been added to the list of war crimes committed by the United States.
The Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War can be found on the Internet at http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/91.htm. Some of its relevant provisions include:
"1. Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely....
"To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:
"(a) Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;
"(c) Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment;
"(d) The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples."