Just ignore the bodies.
Officials overseeing Baghdad’s morgue have come under pressure not to investigate the soaring number of apparent cases of executions and torture in the country, the former U.N. human rights chief for Iraq said yesterday.
[John] Pace said the pressure had come from “both sides,”but declined to give further details. The statement appeared to refer to both the Shiite-led government and the Sunni insurgency fighting it.
On Monday, workers at Baghdad’s main morgue said that more than 1,300 bodies had been brought in since the previous Wednesday and that 200 to 300 bodies remained unclaimed at the morgue. Washington Postreporters saw several dozen bodies on the floors and on gurneys and tables in the entry halls outside of the main morgue rooms. All the dead appeared to be victims of violence, as did the men in photographs of what morgue workers said were the unclaimed dead.
Many of the men had been brought to the morgue and photographed with their hands still pinioned behind their backs or tied with plastic cables in front of them.
Yesterday, the acting director of the morgue, Qais Hassan, denied the morgue had received 1,300 bodies, according to the Reuters news agency. He said the morgue had received only 309 bodies. However, even that figure, added to the more than 80 deaths in cities outside Baghdad reported by news media from Wednesday to Monday, exceeds the 379 deaths nationwide that Al-Jaafari cited.
Many of the recent killings by torture and execution have been blamed on forces of the Shiite-dominated Interior Ministry, as well as allied Shiite militias of Al-Sadr’s group and of one of the other ruling Shiite religious parties in the government. Shiite leaders have repeatedly denied accusations of any involvement with death squads.
Pace, speaking by phone from his home in Sydney, Australia, said some of the officials connected with the morgue had been put “under a lot of these pressures”and had been threatened in the past and told not to investigate the killings of those brought to the morgue “precisely because it was considered a way of attributing responsibility for such crimes.”
The pressure would be to underreport the numbers “or to ignore them,” Pace said. “I think the pressure would be not to take into account the totality of cases.”