UN wants inquiry into US/UK torture in Iraq
Wikileaks documents also detail 11 'friendly-fire' incidents
Published 24/10/2010 | 05:00
The American and British governments were at the centre of a growing row yesterday over the alleged cover-up of the torture of detainees in Iraq, following the leak of almost 400,000 US army field reports.
The leak prompted calls for an inquiry in the US and in Britain into whether the coalition was complicit in the torture and murder of civilians by Iraqi security forces by failing to prevent atrocities.
UK human rights campaigners seized on the documents -- posted on the website Wikileaks -- to demand a public inquiry into the alleged mistreatment of Iraqis while in British custody.
The logs detail incidents during the war and subsequent occupation of Iraq from 2004 until 2009.
They reveal how British troops were subject to 11 incidents of "friendly fire" by US troops and how Iran sponsored the Shia insurgency attacks in Iraq and designed suicide vests for al-Qaeda bombers.
The biggest controversy will be over the apparent complicity of US forces in covering up the widespread and brutal torture of Iraqi civilians.
The field reports appear to show that US authorities failed to investigate hundreds of reports of abuse, torture, rape and murder committed by Iraqi police and soldiers.
That failure may be tantamount to a breach of the UN convention against torture.
The reports describe prisoners shackled, blindfolded and hung by wrists or ankles and subjected to whipping, punching or kicking. Some received electric shocks. The reports are routinely recorded with the words: "No investigation is necessary."
A UN official said there should be an investigation into allegations that US commanders had ignored evidence of widespread abuse by Iraqi authorities.
Manfred Nowak, the UN's special rapporteur on torture, said: "There is an obligation to investigate whenever there are credible allegations torture has happened -- and these allegations are more than credible -- and then it is up to the courts on the one hand to bring the perpetrators to justice and also on the other hand to provide the victims with adequate reparation for the harm they have suffered."
Human rights campaigners jumped on the leaked logs to suggest British forces had also committed atrocities.
Phil Shiner, a human rights lawyer, claimed at a Wikileaks press conference in London yesterday that a British rifleman had killed an eight-year-old girl playing in the street in Basra.
He said: "For some reason, the tank stopped at the end of the street, she's there in her yellow dress, a rifleman pops up and blows her away."
It later became clear that the allegation did not relate to information contained in the leaked documents. Amnesty International had previously claimed that British forces killed an eight-year-old girl in August 2003.
The logs also record 66,081 non-combatant deaths out of a total of 109,000 fatalities -- even though the US had always denied keeping a tally of civilian deaths.
Sapna Malik, whose law firm, Leigh Day & Co, represents some 200 Iraqi civilians for human rights abuses, said: "The graphic accounts of abuse that they, or their families, describe are similar to some of the reports in the Wikileaks disclosure and raise serious questions for the British government to answer."
The decision by Wikileaks to post the documents on its website -- having previously published 92,000 field logs from Afghanistan in July -- drew strong criticism from the UK Ministry of Defence, which condemned the leak.
But Wikileaks's founder Julian Assange told the news conference yesterday: "This disclosure is about the truth."
Wikileaks also used the press conference to announce the planned release of 15,000 more documents on the war in Afghanistan.
The Iraq logs show British forces were attacked by the US on at least 11 occasions. A commando with the Royal Marines was injured after being shot at by Americans whose vehicle had broken down.
On another occasion, British soldiers were fired upon at night by US troops who were not equipped with night-vision goggles and had been listening to their iPods. The documents claim Iranian intelligence officers served inside Iraq, at one point manning checkpoints with militias, and describe a gun battle on the border during which American troops shot an Iranian border guard dead.
They also talk about Iranian involvement in al-Qaeda suicide bombings. A report in the files dated November 17, 2006 claims that new techniques for suicide bombing, a favoured al-Qaeda and Sunni insurgent practice in Iraq, had "surfaced" in Iran and Syria.
Both involved the use of miniature cameras to allow remote monitoring of the attack.