By Karim Talbi (AFP) – Aug 10, 2010
KABUL — Human rights groups are urging WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to remove the names of Afghans helping US forces from thousands of leaked military documents, fearing they could be the target for reprisals.
"In our letter, we asked him to take out some of the names and to be more careful in the future," Nader Nadery, president of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, told AFP in Kabul.
AIHRC joined four other rights group in issuing the appeal to Assange after WikiLeaks published in late July 70,000 leaked classified documents on the near nine-year US-led war in Afghanistan.
The files contained a string of damaging claims, including allegations that Pakistani spies met directly with the Taliban and that deaths of innocent civilians at the hands of international forces were covered up.
They also included the names of some Afghan informants, prompting claims that the leaks have endangered lives.
"We fear the names could create new targets. These persons, whose names and locations, provinces, are mentioned, could be targets for the Taliban," Nadery said.
"We have noticed a sharp rise of assassinations by the Taliban against tribal leaders, religious leaders (in recent months)," he added.
The Wall Street Journal said the letter to Assange was issued by AIHRC, Amnesty International, Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict, Open Society Institute and Commission and International Crisis Group.
"We have seen the negative, sometimes deadly ramifications for those Afghans identified as working for or sympathising with international forces," it quoted the letter as saying.
The message said the groups "strongly urge your volunteers and staff to analyse all documents to ensure that those containing identifying information are taken down or redacted."
Assange questioned what the groups were themselves doing to examine the classified documents, and whether they would be willing to help with the redaction process, the Journal said.
Amnesty suggested they may be able to provide some resources to analyse the documents and some 15,000 other files that WikiLeaks is planning to release, and that Assange and the rights groups discuss the issue on a conference call.
"I'm very busy and have no time to deal with people who prefer to do nothing but cover their asses," Assange was reported to have replied.
"If Amnesty does nothing I shall issue a press release highlighting its refusal," he said, according to the Journal.
On its Twitter page, Wikileaks posted the update on August 8: "Pentagon wants to bankrupt us by refusing to assist review. Media won't take responsibility. Amnesty won't. What to do?"
Assange, 39, an Australian former hacker and computer programmer, has said he believed the publication would help focus public debate on the war in Afghanistan and on possible atrocities by US-led forces.
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, have however insisted the move endangered locals providing information to US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan.
WikiLeaks has never identified the source of the files, but suspicion has fallen on Bradley Manning, a US Army intelligence analyst under arrest for allegedly leaking video footage of a 2007 US helicopter strike in Baghdad in which civilians died.
Manning is being held in a US military jail after being transferred from a US military base in Kuwait.
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