No investigation required: an investigation <em>is</em> required after WikiLeaks revelations
Looks to me as if the devastating account in the WikiLeaks “Iraq War Logs” of how the abuse of detainees in Iraq occurred on a vast scale during 2004-9 has thrown a whole new light on this tragic, blood-soaked period in Iraq’s history.
On top of descriptions of US soldiers firing at civilians at road checkpoints and US helicopter gunships shooting people on the ground apparently trying to surrender, the 391,831 pages of documents damningly show how Coalition commanders turned a blind eye to torture and murder. Not occasionally, not according to specific pressures or needs, but apparently as a matter of established US military policy.
Tonight’s Channel Four Dispatches promises further detailed examination of the documents. There’s a lot of material still to plough through and more distressing details are sure to emerge.
As the Telegraph’s Sean Rayment says, the logs show that abuses were being perpetrated on an “industrial scale” by various Iraqi groups – police officers, army units, security agencies infiltrated by sectarian groups.
The abuse was “Saddam-like” in its brutality. Dousing people in caustic chemicals, cutting off fingers, hooking people up to car batteries, shooting them in the leg, winching them up and lashing them with chains and steel cables. And it seems to have happened to hundreds – even thousands – of people. There are frequently medical records to back up the reports and indeed Amnesty and others have separately documented similar acts of torture, including in secret prisons operated by the Iraqi security forces.
The key finding of the WikiLeaks documents seems to be that rank and file US soldiers would routinely file reports on how they’d seen Iraqi security personnel viciously mistreating detainees yet end their accounts with “No investigation required”, "No further investigation”, and "No further investigation will be required unless directed by HQ". They knew it was happening – they saw it with their own eyes – but they let it carry on unchecked.
To systematically turn a blind eye like this and even hand over detainees to the very people carrying out torture, constitutes a war crime and a breach of the UN convention banning torture, as the UN’s torture expert Manfred Novak explained at the weekend. A related issue is why the US handed across 10,000 “security” detainees this summer without obtaining (or even seeking) guarantees about safe treatment (indeed, how wise was it to hand over any detainees against this background?). Amnesty has called for a US investigation into how this could have been US policy in Iraq. And, as Jim Duffy suggests, we may yet need something similar concerning the UK’s handing over of detainees in Iraq (particularly if this is not dealt with in the forthcoming “torture complicity” inquiry headed by Sir Peter Gibson).
The WikiLeaks documents span 2004-2009, ie roughly from the infamous Abu Ghraib “torture porn” images of US prisoner abuse to the period when the Coalition was preparing to hand military power over to the Iraqis. In horrible, graphic detail, the documents show that widespread torture in Iraq didn’t end with the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and didn’t stop after Abu Ghraib or the end of the Bush era.
In fact, as Amnesty showed in its report last month, the torture and even killings of prisoners is still going on. One detainee who appears to have been badly tortured is the 68-year-old British man Ramze Shihab Ahmed. Please take action for him here.
Amnesty’s report was called “New Order, Same Abuse”. This just about sums up what we’ve learnt from the shocking detail of the WikiLeaks publication.
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