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Dear all The latest mailing from Radio Free Europe, dealing with the siezure of President Hussein, quotes our Prime Minsiter as saying: 'Let's remember all those Iraqis that died under Saddam. The remains of four hundred thousand human beings already found in mass graves.' It gives as a reference the Prime Minsiter's website (http://www.number-10.gov.uk) and it can be found there under the heading 'PM: Shadow of Saddam lifted of Iraq' Kathleen Ridolfo, who compiles the collections, goes on to say in her own voice, under the heading DEBATE ON HUSSEIN TRIAL BEGINS: 'In all, it is conceivable that some 300,000 Iraqis were killed under Ba'athist rule in Iraq, mostly under Hussein's rule.' The Prime Minister says that 400,000 have already been found in mass graves. Ridolfo says that 300,000 is a high estimation of the total number killed, not all of them directly under President Hussein. Marc Azar posted what appears to be a helpful article on the present status of mass graves ('Scientists to Excavate Iraqi Graves' by NIKO PRICE, The Associated Press, Saturday, December 6, posted on 8 December). It describes the work of a team working out of one of Mr Bremer's palaces. It may be noted in passing that when the Iraq Survey Group was set up, searching evidence of President Hussein's crimes was one of its major jobs with if I remember rightly about 1,000 people assigned to it. But all we've heard of since has been David Kay's fruitless search for chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. The article gives the usual figure of '270 suspected grave sites' but then says that 'After seven months of work, the team has confirmed 41 mass graves across the length and breadth of Iraq' (this presumably includes the Kurdish areas were the graves left over from the Anfal campaign and the Halabja bombing could have been investigated at any time over the past ten years if Messrs Barzani and Talabani had attached any importance to the matter). By 'confirmed' we learn is meant that someone has reported that they saw a mass grave being created and satellite imagery has discovered that traces of gypsum had appeared at the same place at the same time the observer reported. Gypsum is taken as evidence that the soil had been disturbed. Does this mean that gypsum wasn't spotted at any of the rest of the 270 sites? Of these 41 sites only 4 are going to be explored immediately, in January. These are suitable for exploration because the work can be done secretly - they are out of sight of the population. The reason given for this is 'to prevent relatives from disturbing them first.' I would have had a lot more sympathy if security had been given as a reason since obviously such a team would be very vulnerable. The view that it is to prevent the relatives knowing about it is odd when 'Adnan Jabbar al-Saadi, a lawyer with Iraq's new Human Rights Ministry' is quoted as saying "It's as easy to find mass graves in Iraq as it once was to find oil" and this was confirmed in a mail from Ghazwan. Also by definition the US group is looking at graves they have been told about by Iraqis so knowledge of them is already out. Somewhere in the news mailings, incidentally, but I can't find it, is a note to the effect that according to the UN definition the presence of three bodies is enough to constitute a 'mass grave'. All this is really just to indicate the looseness and irresponsibility of Mr Blair's reference to 'four hundred thousand human beings already found in mass graves' Peter _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk