Whistleblowing website Wikileaks has put the action of British, US and Iraqi forces back in the spotlight with the release online of thousands more US military documents.
WikiLeaks has posted nearly 400,000 leaked classified reports on the internet which contain accounts of abuse and misconduct by Iraqi authorities and US forces during the Iraq War.
The reports relate to 109,000 deaths – including 66,000 civilians – between 2004 and 2009. According to WikiLeaks, the logs included details of 15,000 previously unrecorded civilian deaths in Iraq.
There are also some allegations of abuse by UK soldiers, the website said. However, The Guardian, which has examined the files in detail, said it found only two cases alleging the involvement of British troops in the abuse of detainees.
Publication of the documents comes after 90,000 files chronicling civilian deaths and other incidents in Afghanistan were published by the site in July.
In a move that mirrored the first release of documents, Wikileaks coordinated the publication of this latest set of documents with the Guardian and other international media organisations.
According to the Guardian, the Iraq logs detail how US authorities allegedly failed to investigate hundreds of reports of abuse, torture, rape and murder by Iraqi police and soldiers.
There are “numerous” reports of detainee abuse, describing prisoners being shackled, blindfolded and hung by wrists or ankles and subjected to whipping, punching, kicking or electric shocks with six ending with a detainee’s apparent death, the paper reported.
US authorities condemned the latest leak, arguing it could jeopardise the safety of its troops.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence told the Press Association that if any new evidence brought to light it would be considered, however he also condemned the ‘reckless’leak of unauthorised material which could put forces at risk.
On Saturday, leading figures from Wikileaks insisted its decision to publish secret US military documents was to reveal the truth about the war in Iraq despite criticism it could put the lives of British armed forces in danger.
WikiLeak’s founder Julian Assange told a news conference in central London: “This disclosure is about the truth.
“We hope to correct some of that attack on the truth that occurred before the war, during the war, and which has continued on since the war officially concluded.”
He added: “While I am not sure we have achieved the maximum possible (political impact) I think we are getting pretty close.”
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said yesterday that allegations of killings, torture and abuse in Iraq contained in leaked US military logs, must be properly examined,
Clegg, who has previously said he believes the Iraq war was “illegal”, said it was up to the US administration to answer for the actions of its forces.
And he did not rule out the possibility of an inquiry into the actions of British forces in Iraq.
“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 and they are very serious,” he told BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show.
“I am assuming the US administration will want to provide its own answer. It’s not for us to tell them how to do that.”
Asked if there should be an inquiry into the role of British troops, he said: ‘I think anything that suggests that basic rules of war, conflict and engagement have been broken or that torture has been in any way condoned are extremely serious and need to be looked at.”
He added: “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.”
Business Secretary Vince Cable said the Lib Dems felt “vindicated” by the allegations but he criticised the way in which they were leaked.
He told Sky News Sunday Live: “The Liberal Democrats were strong opponents of the Iraq war and we do feel vindicated by what’s happening.
“But the way in which the leaks happened, which has indeed – potentially by exposing people’s identity – put lives at risk, is not a responsible way of doing it.
“But long before these facts were revealed, we were convinced the Iraq war was a mistake and we were right in our original judgment.”
Cable added: “I think there have been several investigations already but I think, clearly, if there have been abuses taking place they need to be investigated – that’s obvious enough.”
He said the Iraq war had had “very, very damaging side effects” and many innocent people had been killed.