20th May 2019

British politician breaks ranks on WikiLeaks affair

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

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."

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"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.

EU urges US not to start war with Iran

Europe's top diplomats have said US actions risked triggering a conflict with Iran, as America makes plans to pour troops into Middle East in echoes of Iraq war.

EU-Sahel talks next week amid 'unprecedented attacks'

Officials from Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger are meeting EU foreign, defence, and development ministers next week in Brussels. The visit comes amid "unprecedented levels" of armed attacks, says the UN.

News in Brief

  1. EU flies rainbow flag on anti-homophobia day
  2. EU to freeze money and visas of foreign cyber-attackers
  3. EU reassures US on arms sales
  4. Use euros over dollars in energy contracts, France says
  5. UK cross-party Brexit talks collapse
  6. Climate activists occupy German-Russian gas pipeline
  7. Farage got €515,000 of private perks
  8. French EU commissioner urges Italy not to overspend


Closer EU-Caribbean ties mean greater prosperity for all

The foreign affairs minister of Haiti calls for the replacement EU-Africa, Caribbean, Pacific 'Cotonou' agreement of 2000 to be updated to take account climate change, infrastructure and tourism to help the country transition away from aid-dependence.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us