Britain's deputy prime minister has called for an investigation into allegations against the British military after the latest WikiLeaks release. The website revealed some 400,000 confidential documents on the Iraq war.
Britain's defense ministry condemned the Wikileaks release
British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg called Sunday for an investigation into allegations against the British military found in Iraq war documents leaked by whistle-blowing WikiLeaks.
The website on Friday published some 400,000 confidential documents on the war in Iraq, which suggest negligence on the part of UK military in several cases of civilian death and torture.
"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," Clegg told the BBC in an interview.
The comments came after Britain's Ministry of Defense joined the Pentagon in condemning the release of the classified documents, saying they could put the lives of British soldiers at risk.
WikiLeaks' publication of the documents will make the job of British and allied troops "more difficult and more dangerous," the ministry said Saturday.
The documents, which WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said reveal 15,000 more civilian deaths than were previously known about, will put Britain in a difficult legal position, according to a solicitor working on behalf of Iraqis who claim abuse by British forces.
Deputy PM Clegg called for an investigation
Phil Shiner, of Public Interest Lawyers, said there was a "huge and growing body of evidence about the killing, ill treatment and torture of Iraqis while in UK custody."
"Some of these deaths will be in circumstances where the UK [has] a clear legal responsibility," he added.
Despite condemning publication of the leaked files, the Ministry of Defense said in a statement that it would "consider" the information if it revealed any new evidence.
Denmark vows to scour documents
Meanwhile, Denmark's military announced Sunday it would carefully study the leaked documents to see if they revealed any wrongdoing by Danish soldiers.
"We want to see the documents for ourselves and compare them to our own information," said Danish Defense Command spokesman Torben Kjedsen.
Danish Defense Minister Gitte Lillelund Bech said she was
pleased with the decision, although Danish media report the files reveal negligence on the part of Danish soldiers in cases where prisoners were tortured by Iraqi police.
US and UK 'turned a blind eye'
British newspaper The Guardian, which had the documents in advance of their publication, said the leaks showed "US authorities failed to investigate hundreds of reports of abuse, torture, rape and even murder by Iraqi police and soldiers whose conduct appears to be systematic and normally unpunished."
"US and UK officials have insisted that no official record of civilian casualties exists but the logs record 66,081 non-combatant deaths out of a total of 109,000 fatalities," the newspaper stated.
The Guardian speculated that WikiLeaks had received the material from the "same dissident US army intelligence analyst" who leaked material on Afghanistan, which the site published in July. WikiLeaks, however, has not revealed its source.
Assange said the documents revealed war crimes
WikiLeaks founder defends the release
Julian Assange defended his site's release of confidential documents against condemnation from US and UK authorities, saying "this disclosure is about the truth."
"The first casualty of war is 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 said.
Assange said the documents showed evidence of war crimes. He also told Al Jazeera television the documents provided enough material for 40 wrongful killing lawsuits.
"The lessons of Iraq can be applied to Afghanistan and to other countries Western governments may choose to invade," said Assange, who vowed to continue publishing leaked documents.
The death toll in Iraq now stands at 150,000, 80 percent of which were civilians, according to the organization Iraq Body Count, which cooperated in the analysis of the released material.
The civilian deaths revealed by the leaked documents occurred as a result of "small incidents" occurring daily during the conflict, the organization's head, John Sloboda, said. He added that the vast majority of civilian deaths had been caused by "internal violence" among Iraqi factions.
Author: David Levitz (AFP, dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Martin Kuebler