Human Rights Watch: Mass graves containing hundreds of bodies discovered north of Raqqa, Syria

RAQQA, Syria – On Monday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published Into the Abyss, a report detailing the Islamic State’s (ISIS) use of the Al-Hota pit 85 km north of Raqqa city as a mass grave for those executed by the group.

More than 20 mass graves have been discovered across Syria containing thousands of bodies in areas previously controlled by ISIS, the report said.

The area containing the Al-Hota pit is currently under the control of Turkish-backed factions who invaded the region in October 2019. In its report, HRW demanded that Al-Hota and other mass graves be treated as sites where crimes had occurred and secured to avoid damaging potential evidence.

Using a drone, HRW revealed six bodies floating on the water below. The identity of the victims and the cause of their deaths remain unknown. The HRW investigation showed that the pit was significantly and likely contains many more bodies below the water.

In related news, the Initial Response Team of Raqqa’s Civil Administration revealed the presence of more than 200 bodies in a mass grave in Tel Zidan cemetery in the eastern countryside of Raqqa.

ISIS had used the site to dump the bodies of civilians they executed. The nature in which the bodies were buried – piled on top of one another – has delayed the documentation process as bones of several bodies are often mixed together.