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WikiLeaks files should prompt Iraq abuse probe: U.N.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange listens during a news conference on the internet release of secret documents about the Iraq War, in London October 23, 2010. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

GENEVA (Reuters) - Washington should investigate reports from a trove of leaked military documents indicating that American troops killed Iraqi civilians or ignored prisoner abuse by Iraqis, the U.N. human rights chief said on Tuesday.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said the files released by whistleblower website WikiLeaks indicated U.S. authorities knew about widespread torture and ill-treatment of detainees by Iraqi forces, yet transferred thousands to Iraqi custody between early 2009 and July 2010.

“The files also allegedly include information on many undisclosed instances in which U.S. forces killed civilians at checkpoints and during operations,” Pillay said in a statement.

This added to her concerns that international human rights law had been seriously breached in Iraq with summary executions of a large number of civilians and torture of detainees, the former U.N. war crimes judge said.

“The U.S. 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,” Pillay said.

The U.S. military said on Monday it did not under-report the number of civilian deaths in the Iraq war or ignore prisoner abuse by Iraqi forces, rejecting allegations arising from the release of nearly 400,000 classified U.S. files -- the biggest leak of its kind in U.S. military history.

Wikileaks said the documents detailed the deaths of 15,000 more Iraqi civilians than the U.S. military had reported.

Iraqi officials have vowed to probe allegations of prisoner abuse revealed in the leaked documents, which could embarrass the Shi’ite-led government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki as he tries to win support for a second term.

Thousands of officials were fired from Iraq’s Interior Ministry after revelations that mainly Sunni prisoners were being held in secret prisons near the 2006/07 height of the sectarian slaughter unleashed after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Laura MacInnis; Editing by Peter Graff