Revelations that Denmark, present in Iraq from 2003 until the end of 2007, was shown by the Iraq War Logs to have taken previously undisclosed number of prisoners, many whom were tortured, made headlines for weeks after the publication. While neither Sweden nor Norway has had a troop presence, the war logs showed that weapons made in both Sweden and Norway have been the cause of much death in Iraq.
Denmark – Prisoners delivered for torture, Iraqi interpreters abandoned
In 2004, then danish defense minister Soren Gade told the Danish parliament that Danish troops in Iraq in 2004 and 2005 captured a total of 21 prisoners. Just after the Iraq War Logs release, Information.dk reported that the war logs put the actual number of prisoners taken in the period at a minimum of 95. Of these, 62 were handed over to Iraqi authorities, who were well known to be carrying out torture in Iraqi prisons. The Danish Defence argued that the reason for the great disparity between the reported number of prisoners was due to the fact that many of the prisoners had been captured by British troops, and that the Danish troops therefore could not be held accountable. This claim was rejected by human rights lawyers: If Danish soldiers had in any way been present at the prisoner transfers, they were also obliged by the Geneva convention to intervene.
In the period the prisoner transfers took place, the prime minister of Denmark was Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who is now NATO Secretary General. Fogh Rasmussen had repeatedly stressed that Danish troops were adhering to all legal requirements. It was pointed out after the publication of the War Logs that even in the unlikely case that Fogh Rasmussen was not aware of the prisoner transfers, that would not free him from guilt, it being the obligation of the prime minister to follow the conduct of the Danish soldiers.
The executions of 60 Iraqi interpreters working for coalition troops reported in the logs prove that the Danish troops were well aware of the danger facing anyone choosing to cooperate with them. Despite this, very little protection was provided. After the War Logs release, Danish officers confirmed that security for the interpreters was not a high priority. Two Iraqi interpreters are known to have been killed for having cooperated with Danish troops, and a third one seriously injured.
Investigations into the the claims
On 23 October, the day after the War Logs release, the Danish Defense Committee called a meeting with Defense Minister Gitte Lillelund Bech, asking the defense minister to provide a complete account of Denmark’s potential complicity in torture in Iraq. On 24 October, an investigation was launched by the Defense. A Danish soldier having come forth to confirm the information in the logs, the investigative board established a hot-line for other soldiers. The investigation was welcomed by then prime minster Lars Lokke Rasmussen, as well as then minster of foreign affairs Lene Espersen.
A few days later the Danish Defense issued a statement calling on Wikileaks to help the investigation by providing the full unredacted set of reports, something Wikileaks expressed its willingness to do. For unclear reasons, the Defense ministry later took pains to stress that it had been given the documents by the US, and not by Wikileaks.
In April 2011 the investigation announced that it could confirm that information in the war logs provided actual number of prisoners taken by Danish troops in Iraq, higher than what had been officially announced.
While there were initially hopes that a final report would be produced before the summer break of parliament, the investigation has still not been completed, and very little is known about how it is progressing.
Shortly after the initial investigation was launched, opposition parties joined many others in attacking the government over the way it was being carried out and the lack of a transparent process. The defense minister was repeatedly called on in parliament to provide clarifications. Many argued that the government likely would seek to delay the publication of the results of the investigation until after the elections the following year. The opposition parties called for an independent investigation, and subsequently made it one of their election promises that a 40% minority would be able to force an independent investigation. However, when the same parties won the elections last month, that measure had been scrapped.
Sweden – In violation of arms exports regulations, Swedish weapons used by Iraqi troops
As reported by Wikileaks Swedish media partner SVT, the logs contain numerous mentions of Swedish weapons being used in battle. The most popular of these weapons, the AT4 grenade launcher, is mentioned in some 200 reports. While it could have been assumed that Swedish weapons were being used in battle, it was not known that there were instances of the weapons being used by the U.S.’ Iraqi allies, as reported by SR a few weeks after the War Logs release. This constitutes a breach of an end user agreement signed with every foreign arms buyer, stating that purchased weapons shall not be transferred by the buyer to a third party.
Andreas Ekman Duse is Director of the Swedish Agency for Non-Proliferation and Export Control, an institution that ensures regulations pertaining to arms exports such as end user agreements are adhered to. On 18 November, Duse said that if a country fails to adhere to the end user agreement, then exports to that country must be immediately ceased.
However, on the following day, he said that even if the U.S. had broken its end user agreement with Sweden, it would be impossible for Sweden to stop exports, as that would lead to a U.S. arms embargo which would effectively end the Swedish defence industry.
Shortly after the Iraq War Logs release, an article by Anna Ek, president of the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society, raised several issues concerning Swedish arms exports and whether Sweden contributes to some of the human rights violations in Iraq described in the War Logs.
Responding to her article, Defense Committee member Allan Widman pointed out several restrictions on arms exports, including that no arms should be sold to a country that is in war or that is violating human rights. He then went on to himself disregard these criteria, saying that Sweden nevertheless should continue arms exports to the US.
In this, he is following a tradition of adopting policy to Swedish interests. Anna Ek notes that then minister of foreign affairs Laila Freivalds said in 2004 that “When balancing various approaches to arms exports, the interests of this country are given priority.”
The war logs have been mentioned in parliament on several occasions, in calls for a more outspoken Swedish opposition to US conduct. They have not directly resulted in legal reform. A reform was, however, passed in May this year, restricting the possibilities of exporting arms to dictatorships, but leaving the possibilities for exporting arms to the US unchanged.
Norway – Norwegian weapons used in Iraq, Norwegian citizen tortured
According to Norwegian national radio NRK, Norwegian-made weapon systems could be tied to some 2,800 reports in the Iraq War Logs. These reports detail more than 200 civilian deaths and 498 injuries. Among the partly Norwegian weapons mentioned in the reports are the Protector weapon system and Hellfire missiles. A Hellfire missile fueled by the Norwegian company Chemring Nobel was, for example, used in the killing of two persons seeking to surrender, as described by the Guardian.
There was also information in the war logs indicating that U.S. troops Iraq had detained and tortured a person with dual Iraqi-Norwegian passports in 2004.
In Norway, the revelations have so far not led to any reform of regulations governing arms exports. State secretary Barth Eide commented after the release of the war logs that it should come as no surprise that the weapons Norway sells end up being used in wars. That appears to have concluded the debate on the issue.
Former minister of education Bård Vegar Solhjell of Sosialistisk Venstreparti called for a thorough investigation into the reported torture of a Norwegian citizen, but no such investigation appears to have been launched.