Controversial website WikiLeaks has released 400,000 confidential US army documents on Friday. The documents’ reports, written by soldiers detail thousands of incidents, including torture of detainees and civilian deaths. The leaked documents span a six year period dating from January 2004 to 31st December 2009.
The leaks, which are the largest in US military history, have been met with widespread condemnation.
Hillary Clinton, U.S Secretary of State, stated that “we should in the most clear terms disclosure of any classified information”.
A Pentagon Spokesman also stated that “by disclosing such sensitive information, WikiLeaks continues to put at risk the lives of our troops, their coalition partners and those Iraqis and Afghans working with us.” Several US officials have called for the documents to be taken off the internet returned.
The NATO Secretary General joined in condemning the leaks and reiterated the US position, suggesting that the leaks could put military personnel in danger.
WikiLeaks have refuted these claims stating that the documents released have been heavily censored in order to protect both victims and troops.
Julian Assange, the Editor and Founder of WikiLeaks, has defended the leaks in a press conference held on Saturday stating that “the disclosure is about the truth…we hope to correct some of the attack on the truth that occurred before the war, during the war and which has continued on since the war officially concluded”.
The documents were passed to several media outlets and organisations before the leak for analysis.
The Iraq Body Count (IBC) is an independent organisation which aims to catalogue civilian deaths which have occurred during and after the Iraq War.
The IBC has suggested that the documents contain details of 15,000 previously unreported deaths; they have suggested that most of these deaths occurred during smaller incidents in which one or two civilians were killed. Both British and US governments have previously stated that no official records of civilian deaths had been kept.
However the leaked documents detail the deaths of more than 68,000 civilians.
The documents also contain information of incidents of torture and executions by Iraqi security forces. Many of the reports of abuse are backed up by details of medical examinations carried out by US personnel.
Catalogued episodes include detainees being shackled, punched, and electrocuted. In most cases the incidents were not investigated, rather the documents were marked with “no further investigation”. This has been met with sharp criticism from many human rights organisations. The UN chief investigator on torture, Manfred Nowak, has urged the American President Barack Obama to conduct a full investigation into the alleged involvement of US troops in torture.
Speaking on the BBC’s Today Programme Nowak said: “Whenever they expel, extradite or hand over any detainees to the authorities of another state to assess whether or not these individuals are under specific risk of torture. If this assessment is not done, or authorities hand over detainees knowing there is a serious risk of them being subjected to torture, they violate article 3 of the UN convention that precludes torture.”
Earlier this year, WikiLeaks released US documents about the conflict in Afghanistan. It is thought that ‘Iraq War logs’ originate from the same source as the Afghan files, a renegade US Security Analyst.