The UN High Commissioner on Human Rights has spoken out over allegations that the US turned a blind eye to evidence of torture by Iraqi security services, revealed in documents published by whistle-blowing site WikiLeaks at the weekend.
In a statement, High Commissioner Navi Pillay said: “The files reportedly indicate that the US knew, among other things, about widespread use of torture and ill-treatment of detainees by Iraqi forces, and yet proceeded with the transfer of thousands of persons who had been detained by US forces to Iraqi custody between early 2009 and July 2010.
“The files also allegedly include information on many undisclosed instances in which US forces killed civilians at checkpoints and during operations.”
The Commissioner urged US and Iraqi authorities to investigate and prosecute all wrongdoing, in accordance with international human rights law, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which both the US and Iraq are parties.
The Commissioner also called on Iraq to ratify the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and to allow UN human rights teams access to its facilities in the country to monitor human rights.
The allegations against US and Iraqi forces stem from more than 391,000 documents outed by WikiLeaks at the weekend, in what has become known as the largest leak in US military history.
The publication of the files has prompted condemnation from the Pentagon, which claims the disclosures endanger the lives of servicemen on active duty, and may assist enemies of the US.
Criticism has also come from within the ranks of WikiLeaks’ supporters. A number of activists have quit the organisation in recent months, claiming that the site’s obsession with pursuing the US military has eclipsed other valuable but lower-profile work.
A number are said to be unhappy with the leadership of founder Julian Assange, with some calling for him to step down to avoid coverage of the site’s work being drowned out by the Australian’s personal life. Assange is currently involved in a legal battle over allegations of rape made against him in Sweden.
In a post on Twitter, former WikiLeaks activist and an Icelandic MP Birgitta Jonsdottir today urged the media not to be sidetracked by Assange’s personal issue, tweeting: “Mass media should focus on the content of the latest http:/wikileaks.org Iraq leak instead of the personality of the messenger.
“I am no longer a spokesperson for WikiLeaks,” she added, “and have nothing to add about the org about how it works in past, now or future.”