UN rights chief urges US, Iraq to probe WikiLeaks evidence
UN human rights chief Navi Pillay on Tuesday urged Iraq and the United States to investigate allegations of torture and unlawful killings in the Iraq conflict revealed in documents leaked last week.
"The US and Iraqi authorities should take necessary measures to investigate all allegations made in these reports and to bring to justice those responsible for unlawful killings, summary executions, torture and other serious human rights abuses," her office said in a statement.
Pillay said the confidential documents published last Friday by whistleblowing website WikiLeaks added to her concerns that serious breaches of international human rights law had occurred in Iraq.
Those possible breaches included "summary executions of a large number of civilians and torture and ill-treatment of detainees."
She said the "files reportedly indicate that the US knew, among other things, about widespread use of torture and ill-treatment of detainees by Iraqi forces, and yet proceeded with the transfer of thousands of persons who had been detained by US forces to Iraqi custody between early 2009 and July 2010."
"The files also allegedly include information on many undisclosed instances in which US forces killed civilians at checkpoints and during operations," the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights added.
The website released 400,000 classified military documents, which recount widespread torture in Iraqi prisons and purport to show 15,000 more civilian deaths than the previously disclosed figure of about 50,000.
It was Pillay's first official statement on the documents, which have triggered worldwide concern and condemnation.
The Gulf Cooperation Council, which comprises six US-friendly Arab monarchies, has urged Washington to "open a serious and transparent investigation" into possible "crimes against humanity."
Human rights campaign groups have also called for a probe, with New York-based Human Rights Watch saying the United States may have broken international law if it knowingly transferred prisoners to potential places of abuse.
The documents have also added to pressure on Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki as he seeks a second term following hard-fought elections.
Officials in Washington have defended the US military's record in probing civilian deaths and abuse in Iraq during the conflict.
General George Casey, the top officer in the US Army who previously headed forces in Iraq for three of the bloodiest years in the war, on Monday denied that the United States "turned a blind eye" to prisoner abuse.
"That's just not the case. Our policy all along was when American soldiers encountered prisoner abuse, it was to stop it and then report it immediately up the American chain of command and up the Iraqi chain of command," he said.
The UN human rights chief also called on Iraq to sign up to the International Convention against Torture, which outlaws the practice, and to facilitate visits by UN monitors in Iraq to detention facilities.
© 2010 AFP