Monday

20th May 2019

British politician breaks ranks on WikiLeaks affair

  • Mr Clegg (l) and Mr Cameron formed a coalition government in May (Photo: number10.gov.uk)

British deputy prime minister Nick Clegg has broken ranks with the UK and US administrations by saying that the abuses revealed by the WikiLeaks publication on Iraq merit further enquiry.

Speaking in a BBC TV interview on Sunday (24 October), one day after the WikiLeaks website put on display 391,832 classified US files documenting the war effort from 2004 to the present day, Mr Clegg said: "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. I am assuming the US administration will want to provide its own answer. It's not for us to tell them how to do that."

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"I think anything that suggests that basic rules of war, conflict and engagement have been broken or that torture has been in any way condoned are extremely serious and need to be looked at. People will want to hear what the answer is to what are very, very serious allegations of a nature which I think everybody will find quite shocking."

Mr Clegg, whose Liberal party opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq, currently shares power with the pro-invasion Conservative Party in the UK.

The WikiLeaks disclosure indicates that British coalition forces were involved in mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners in at least two cases, as well as documenting US killings of civilians and US complicity in torture by Iraqi security forces. It says that 66,000 unarmed civilians died in the war, 15,000 more than previously reported.

The UN's special rapporteur on torture, Austrian Manfred Nowak, in a BBC radio interview on Sunday said the US, which is not a member of the International Criminal Court in the Hague, should conduct an internal enquiry.

"If it is established that a particular individual is responsible for torture directly or by complicity, this person should be brought to justice in the domestic courts," he said.

The British defence ministry and Nato have taken the same line as the US in attacking WikiLeaks for allegedly exposing Iraqi agents to reprisals instead of addressing the substance of the abuse revelations. British Prime Minister David Cameron and other EU leaders have meanwhile stayed silent.

Speaking at a press conference in Berlin alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday, on the eve of the highly-anticipated publication, Danish Nato chief Anders Fogh-Rasmussen said: "Such leaks are very unfortunate and may have very negative security implications for people concerned ... Leaks may put soldiers as well as civilians at risk."

The WikiLeaks founder and mastermind, Julian Assange, has meanwhile told press that he has failed to find shelter in Europe.

Sweden earlier this month rejected the Australian's application for residency. The Swedish public prosecutor in a rare move in August also published details of a sexual assault charge against Mr Assange which has continued to grab attention in press coverage of the Iraq leak. The computer hacker has said that Iceland is too close to the US government to give him protection and reported that three of his laptops went missing on a Stockholm to Berlin flight in September.

The Iraq invasion seven years ago caused deep divisions inside Europe and between the EU and US. France and Germany at the time strongly condemned the move, while aspirant EU countries such as Poland backed the UK and US war effort.

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