Late this week, President Obama announced that US troops would be withdrawn from Iraq before the end of 2011. To date, no US official has been held accountable for US policies leading to abuse in Iraq, or for the lies which started the war. Despite the decreasing US presence in Iraq, the country has been permanently affected, and questions about accountability remain.
On 22 October 2010, WikiLeaks’ Iraq War Logs release triggered calls for accountability by UN officials, human rights organizations, and individuals worldwide. One year later, we are looking back on the possible impact that the Iraq war logs may have on legal investigations into abuse, torture, and injustices carried out during the war. We also look at the possible scope of the immediate and long-term impact on possible future accountability for human rights abuses committed by the US, it’s coalition partners, and the Iraqi government.
The Iraq war, the war logs, and accountability
Part I: Iraq War Logs initial reactions following the release – On 22 October 2010, WikiLeaks and its media partners The Guardian, the New York Times, Der Spiegel, Al Jazeera, and Le Monde began publishing articles based on an archive of 400,000 U.S. Army field reports from Iraq, followed by coverage from WikiLeaks partners The Independent, BBC Radio, Channel 4, SVT, and the Associated Press, and many other outlets. In this article, we look at the reactions from human rights groups and veterans groups in the US, UN officials remarks and reactions, and their (still unanswered) calls for accountability.
Part II: The Iraq war logs and ongoing legal cases in the US – Despite US claims that the war logs contained “no new details” and general reluctance to launch investigations, the War Logs may contain information which is relevant to a number of ongoing legal cases in the US. We take a look at cases against Blackwater and Donald Rumsfeld, what the war logs tell us about those cases, and prospects for accountability.
Part III: Investigation and in-depth analysis in the UK - In this article, we take a look at ongoing public inquiries in the UK, the Ministry of Defense’s Iraq Historic Allegations Team investigation of troop abuses in Iraq, as well as Iraq casualty studies by Iraq Body Count and other academic studies and their policy implications.
Part IV: The Iraq war logs – Denmark, Sweden, and Norway – The Iraq War Logs showed that Denmark had taken more prisoners than previously disclosed, many whom ended up being tortured. While neither Sweden nor Norway has had a troop presence in Iraq, the war logs showed that weapons made in both countries have been the cause of much death in the country, in violation of arms exports regulations.
Note: The above articles are by no means comprehensive in scope; in particular we make little or no mention of many countries in the “coalition of the willing,” who contributed a great deal to the war and are mentioned numerous times in the War Logs. We welcome additional discussion and comments.
The Iraq war logs – a milestone in journalism
In May 2011, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism won the Digital Media Prize for its dedicated site to the Iraq War Logs as part of the 2011 Amnesty Media Awards. The awards honor “excellence in human rights reporting and acknowledge journalism’s significant contribution to the public’s awareness and understanding of human rights issues.” In addition, WikiLeaks has won numerous awards for press freedom and journalism since the release of the Iraq War Logs, including the Martha Gelhorn journalism prize and the José Couso award for Press Freedom.