US prosecutors have failed to include one of WikiLeaks’ most shocking video revelations in the indictment against Julian Assange, a move that has brought accusations the US doesn’t want its “war crimes” exposed in public.
Assange, an Australian citizen, is remanded and in ill health in London’s Belmarsh prison while the US tries to extradite him to face 18 charges – 17 under its Espionage Act – for conspiracy to receive, obtain and disclose classified information.
The charges relate largely to the US conduct of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, including Assange’s publication of the US rules of engagement in Iraq.
The prosecution case alleges Assange risked American lives by releasing hundreds of thousands of US intelligence documents.
One of the most famous of the WikiLeaks releases was a video – filmed from a US Apache helicopter, Crazy Horse 1-8, as it mowed down 11 people on 12 July 2007 in Iraq. The video starkly highlights the lax rules of engagement that allowed the killing of men who were neither engaged with nor threatening US forces.
Two of those Crazy Horse 1-8 killed in east Baghdad that day were the Reuters photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen, 22, and a driver/fixer, Saeed Chmagh, 40.
Their Baghdad bureau chief at the time, Dean Yates, said the US military had repeatedly lied to him – and the world – about what happened, and it was only when Assange released the video (which WikiLeaks posted with the title Collateral Murder) in April 2010 that the full brutal truth of the killings was exposed.
“What he did was 100% an act of truth-telling, exposing to the world what the war in Iraq looks like and how the US military lied … The US knows how embarrassing Collateral Murder is, how shameful it is to the military – they know that there’s potential war crimes on that tape,” Yates said.
The Australian barrister Greg Barns is legal adviser to the Australian Assange Campaign, which works closely with Assange’s UK representatives, including his legal team. The campaign lobbies Australia’s federal government to both press its closest ally, the US, to withdraw the charges and to push Britain to ensure Assange’s safety.
He said while the US indictment against Assange did not “explicitly mention Collateral Murder … it is very much part of the broader prosecution case [because of what it illustrates about the US rules of engagement] and it is one of the many reasons to oppose what is happening to Assange”.
“Collateral Murder shows unlawful killing by Australia’s closest ally,” Barns said. “It is something we deserve to know about. Its publication was, and remains, clearly in the public interest.”
The Tasmanian Greens senator Peter Whish Wilson, a founding member of the multi-party Parliamentary Friends of the Bring Julian Assange Home Group, said: “The omission of the leaked Collateral Murder footage from the indictment surprised me, but on reflection of course it’s not in the US Government’s interests to highlight their own injustices, deceit and war crimes.
“The US prosecution’s case is focused on indicting and extraditing Julian for putting US or Coalition lives at risk, but what about the many lives they put at risk through their supposed rules of engagement?
“Collateral Murder exposed the loss of innocent lives at the hands of the US military, and the coverups, lies and deceit that refused to acknowledge this fact.”