|The leaked US military logs showed a blind eye was turned to claims of abuse by Iraqi security forces [File: AFP]|
The United Kingdom’s deputy prime minister has said that allegations of prisoner abuse and civilian casualties contained in almost 400,000 leaked US military logs must be investigated.
“We can bemoan how these leaks occurred but I think the nature of the allegations made are extraordinarily serious. They are distressing to read about,” he told BBC television on Sunday.
“Anything that suggests that basic rules of war and conflict and of engagement have been broken or that torture has in any way been condoned are extremely serious and need to be looked at.
“People will want to hear what the answer is to what are very, very serious allegations of a nature which I think everybody will find quite shocking.”
The flood of documents published by Al Jazeera, The New York Times, Germany’s Der Spiegel, the UK’s Guardian newspaper and Channel 4 news, detailed how US military personnel had routinely turned a blind eye to abuses by Iraqi security forces.
The US has condemned the Wikileaks whistleblowing website for releasing the logs.
“We deplore WikiLeaks for inducing individuals to break the law, leak classified documents and then cavalierly share that secret information with the world, including our enemies,” Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary, said.
Human-rights actvists, however, have said that US troops could have broken international laws given their apparent knowledge of abuses by Iraqi security forces.
Malcolm Smart, a spokesman for the UK-based Amnesty International, said that US authorities “committed a serious breach of international law when they summarily handed over thousands of detainees to Iraqi security forces who, they knew, were continuing to torture and abuse detainees on a truly shocking scale”.
Iraqi officials have vowed to investigate the allegations that of torture by police and soldiers, but that many of the incidents mentioned appeared to be old.
Thousands of officials were purged from Iraq’s interior ministry after it was revealed that mainly Sunni prisoners were being held in secret prisons during the height of the sectarian violence in the country in 2006 and 2007.
“We will not turn a blind eye to any of these matters,” Lieutenant-General Hussein Kamal, a deputy interior minister, told the Reuters news agency. “Everyone responsible for any crimes will be prosecuted and justice will take its course.”
The office of Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, said: “The government will show no leniency when it comes to the rights of its citizens.”
Australia and Denmark, who both sent troops to fight alongside the US and UK in Iraq, have both also pledged to study the documents.
“We want to see the documents for ourselves and compare them to our own information,” Torben Kjedsen, the Danish Defence Command spokesman, told the AFP news agency.
According to Danish media, the documents reveal how Danish troops had handed over 62 prisoners to Iraqi authorities, despite warnings they would likely face abusive treatment.
Meanwhile, Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, said he was taking security precautions following the release of the Iraq war documents.
“No, I’m not running for my life, but we do have to take extra security precautions,” he told Israel’s Channel Two. The channel reported that Assange was accompanied by bodyguards during the interview in London.
“Just yesterday, in fact, the former general counsel of the CIA said that it was his view was that the US was trying to get me personally and possibly some other people into the US jurisdiction, and that corresponds to former statements made by the Pentagon,” he told Israel’s Channel Two.