U.S. Army Spc. Justin Towe scans his area while on a mission with Iraqi army soldiers from 1st Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 4th Iraqi Army Division in Al Muradia village, Iraq, March, 13, 2007 by U.S. Military
Iraq War Logs from Wikileaks were made public yesterday and document 109,000 deaths, including 66,000 civilian deaths, of which 15,000 were previously unknown. The more than 390,000 field reports from US military reveal the truth about the Iraq War from 2004 to 2009, which Wikileaks' Julian Assange hopes will correct attacks "on the truth that occurred before the war, during the war, and which [have] continued on since the war officially concluded."
A press conference convened in London on Saturday, October 23rd, focused on the huge body of evidence that Wikileaks has put into the public domain as a result of the leak (video of the full press conference: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3). It illuminated the Logs, which, like the previously leaked Afghanistan War Logs, The Guardian, Der Spiegel, and the New York Times were all granted access to so that coverage could be released simultaneously and so that the coverage would provide detailed insight into the reports.
Phil Shiner of Public Interest Lawyers in the United
Kingdom, a firm that has acted on behalf of Iraqis claiming they were tortured
or the victim of indiscriminate military attacks, explained how the released
evidence can be broken into three key categories:
-Unlawful killings of civilians, indiscriminate attacks or the unjustified use of lethal force against civilians
-Horrendous abuse and torture of Iraqis by the Iraqi National Guard or the Iraqi Police Service
-Torture of Iraqis whilst in UK custody (presumably, whilst in the custody of US and other coalition forces custody as well)
Shiner stated, "Some of the circumstances will be where the UK had a very clear legal responsibility. This may be because the Iraqis died under the effective control of UK forces--under arrest, in vehicles, hospitals or detention facilities." The death likely fall under the jurisdiction of the European Convention on Human Rights and the Grand Chamber could take legal action. That, according to Shiner, would be especially likely if the Grand Chamber found that when UK forces have authoritative control of Iraqis the Convention has jurisdiction over their action.
One example of indiscriminate killing given by Shiner involving a little girl in a yellow dress being fired at by a rifleman in a UK tank while she was playing in the street would likely not fall under the Convention. Shiner suggested lawyers might be able to get courts to argue that Common Law in UK could provide some remedy and give credence to launching a judicial inquiry into the legality of all deaths detailed in the Iraq War Logs.
In terms of abuse and torture by Iraqi National Guard or the Iraqi Police Service, Shiner's statement highlighted a fragmented order ("Frago 242"), which the US and the UK appear to have adopted as a way of excusing them from having to take responsibility for torture or ill-treatment of Iraqis by Iraqi military or security forces. This, according to Shiner, runs "completely contrary to international law" and "it's well known that there's an absolute prohibition on torture" and "it may never be used."
"The US and UK forces cannot turn a blind eye on the basis that it wasn't their soldiers that were doing the torture and that's what happened," stated Shiner. They have an "international obligation to take action to stop torture" and "that they did not makes them complicit."
As far as torture of Iraqis by US and UK forces goes, Shiner said there appeared to be many instances where Iraqis died in UK custody and were certified as dying of natural causes. None of the deaths had been investigated, many were hooded and abused and his law firm does not accept the Ministry of Defense explanation that these deaths all have an innocent explanation.
Shiner explained hundreds of Iraqis have been complaining for a long time about ill-treatment and torture, often a result of coercive interrogation by UK interrogators in secret facilities run by the Joint Forward Interrogation Team. The evidence of torture would help promote support for a formal inquiry into the detention policy and practice used by forces in southeast Iraq.
Daniel Ellsberg, known for leaking the Pentagon Papers on the Vietnam War, flew from the US to stand in support of Julian Assange and others in the WikiLeaks coalition, which released the reports. He said he had been waiting to see something like this for forty years and suggested that if he was the "most dangerous man in America" than Julian Assange might be, to US officialas, "the most dangerous man in the world."
According to Ellsberg, President Obama has started as many
prosecutions for leaks as all previous presidents put together: three
prosecutions, Bradley Manning being the latest. That is because, prior to
President Obama and President George W. Bush, presidents didn't think they
could use the Espionage Act to prosecute whistleblowers. They thought that
using the act to halt whistleblowing would be viewed as unconstitutional and a
violation of First Amendment rights. But, after 9/11 and with the current
Supreme Court, President Obama has no problem with "mounting a new experiment"
to "change the relationship between press and sources." Now, press has to know
taking leaked information means risk of prison. (*For more, see Glenn Greenwald's previous coverage of the Obama Administration's war on whistleblowers: "What the whistleblower prosecution says about the Obama DOJ").