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15th May 2021

MEPs pressing for WikiLeaks Iraq torture follow-up at US summit

Euro-deputies on Thursday (11 November) called for a "transatlantic inquiry" into Iraqi torture cases described in US war logs published by WikiLeaks and pressed EU leaders to follow up on the issue at a meeting with US President Barack Obama next week.

The European Parliament is "highly concerned over the recent serious allegations that torture has been condoned in Iraq" and demands an "independent transatlantic inquiry," a resolution adopted Thursday in the plenary reads. MEPs also call for this issue "to be raised in the context of the EU-US summit," which is set to take place on 20 November in Lisbon.

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  • Mr Obama has come under fire for the US army condoning torture under his watch (Photo: whitehouse.gov)

Last month, Julian Assange's WikiLeaks website published some 400,000 classified army documents, disclosing that US helicopters in Iraq had killed insurgents who were trying to surrender and that American troops routinely delivered suspects to their Iraqi allies, knowing that they would be submitted to torture. The massive leak also uncovered 15,000 more civilian deaths than were previously known about.

The issue is so far not on the agenda of the meeting, said a spokesman for EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy, who will represent member states in the two-hour meeting with Mr Obama. European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso will also attend the gathering.

EU ambassadors are set to fine-tune the topics for debate next Wednesday. Jobs, trade issues and the follow-up from the G20 summit taking place this week in Seoul are so far top of the agenda, as well as anti-terrorism measures in the aftermath of the foiled bomb plot with ink cartridges shipped on airplanes travelling from Yemen via Europe to Chicago.

In a meeting with local journalists on Wednesday, Washington's envoy to Brussels, William Kennard, also mentioned only economy, trade, security and climate change issues as part of the agenda. The WikiLeaks affair was not touched upon.

So far, only Britain's deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, has joined calls from United Nations' anti-torture czar Manfred Nowak to call for an independent investigation into the Iraqi torture cases.

This despite the British defence ministry siding with the Pentagon in blaming WikiLeaks for jeopardising the lives of US and allied troops in Iraq.

"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," Mr Clegg told the BBC in an interview last month.

The Danish military has subsequently announced it would analyse the leaked documents to see if there were wrong-doings by its own soldiers.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, an Australian citizen, is meanwhile filing for citizenship in Switzerland after Swedish authorities refused to grant him asylum.

Right-wing commentators in the US have suggested Mr Assange to be designated as "enemy combatant" by the Obama administration, so that the US can take "non-judicial action" against him, similar to those jailed in Guantanamo Bay.

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