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President Obama Called to Act on Promise to Investigate Dasht-e-Leili Massacre

On anniversary of massacre, PHR urges President to address accountability by the US and Afghanistan

For Immediate Release

In a letter dated December 9,Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) asked President Obama to make good on his promiseto investigate the massacre of prisoners by the Northern Alliance, US allies. 

December marks the ten-yearanniversary of the “Convoy of Death.” In 2001, while being transferred byNorthern Alliance forces,  2,000prisoners who had surrendered to US special forces, CIA officers, and theAfghan Northern Alliance were allegedly shot to death or suffocated in sealedmetal truck containers. The dead prisoners—some of who had been tortured—werethen buried in the northern Afghanistan desert at Dasht-e-Leili. 

According to the New York Times, there were“repeated efforts by the Bush administration to discourage any investigation ofthe massacre — even after officials from the F.B.I. and the State Department,along with the Red Cross and human rights groups, tried to press the matter.”

On July 12, 2009, during aninterview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, President Obama stated that he would ask hisnational security team “to collect the facts” and he would then “make adecision on how to approach it once the facts were known.”  To date, the President has not issued apublic statement as to who is responsible for the massacre, whether US troopswere involved, or whether any US officials had sought to prevent aninvestigation of these events from going forward. 

“PHR has not given up on learning whathappened at Dasht-e-Leili. The victims’ families deserve to know the truth aboutthis atrocity,” said Susannah Sirkin, Deputy Director of PHR. “As the USprepares to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan, we must address these allegedwar crimes in order to help Afghanistan achieve a legitimate democracywhere the rule of law is respected.”

PHR discovered the massgraves in 2002. Since then, PHR has led the advocacy effort and investigationsinto the Dasht-e-Leili massacre. Under the auspices of the United Nations,PHR’s International Forensic Program conducted an initial examination of partof the site, exhumed fifteen remains, and conducted autopsies on threeindividual remains, finding that the likely cause of death was consistent withsuffocation. For the last ten years, PHR, together with the UN Office of theHigh Commissioner for Human Rights, has sought to have the gravesitesprotected, evidence collected, and the perpetrators of this alleged war crimebrought to justice and held accountable.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.