European parliamentarians condemn White House treatment of Bradley Manning

Representatives of several political parties call on Obama to allow meeting with UN torture investigator

November 30, 2011. Bradley Manning Support Network

Press conference video (YouTube) Features Bradley Manning Support Network Steering Committee member Gerry Condon.

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM — Speaking at a press conference this morning at the European Parliament (photo right), elected officials representing a broad spectrum of political parties expressed their strong concerns about the mistreatment of accused WikiLeaks whistle-blower Bradley Manning. They released a letter signed by dozens of Members of Parliament to officials in the White House and U.S. military, which read in part:

“We are troubled by reports that Mr Manning has been subjected to prolonged solitary confinement and other abusive treatment tantamount to torture.”

The full text of the letter is included below. Today’s press conference follows on a revelation by Manning’s counsel, David Coombs, that military officials have refused to provide the defense team with video-recordings that were made while Manning was subjected to periods of forced nudity during part of his confinement.

“Every day that the Obama administration persists in their refusal to respect basic standards of civil and human rights, they will become increasingly isolated in the eyes of the international community,” said Jeff Paterson, an organizer with the Bradley Manning Support Network. “They know that the show is over, but they’re too embarrassed to hand over the video.”

In a recent “Defense Request for Evidence” that was made public earlier this week, Manning’s chief counsel David Coombs revealed that the Obama administration has been withholding favorable evidence from his defense team. They noted that military prosecutors have not turned over a damage assessment conducted by the Defense Intelligence Agency, which found no adverse impacts on national security caused by the information exposed via WikiLeaks.

“The White House has known for some time that these revelations never posed a threat to our national security,” said Kevin Zeese, a legal adviser with the Bradley Manning Support Network. “They aren’t violating Manning’s civil liberties for the sake of his safety or our own, but rather for the psychological impact these abuses are intended to convey.”

Legal observers have noted that the legitimacy of any trial against Manning has already been compromised by numerous rights violations on the part of the Obama administration. Among these violations are substantiated concerns related to due process, freedom of speech, fifth amendment rights, undue command influence, and unlawful pretrial punishment that may have amounted to torture.

Juan Mendez, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, is preparing to issue a report on Bradley Manning’s conditions of confinement. PFC Manning’s supporters have argued that this report won’t be fully complete so long as the Obama administration prevents them from conducting an unmonitored meeting. Manning’s request for an unmonitored meeting with Mendez still stands.

The full text of the letter from the Members of the European Parliament:


U.S. President Barack Obama,
Members of the U.S. Senate
Members of the U.S. House of Representatives
U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta
U.S. Secretary of the Army John McHugh
US Army Chief of Staff Raymond T. Odierno

As Members of the European Parliament, who were elected to represent our constituents throughout Europe, we are writing to express our concerns about alleged human rights violations against Bradley Manning, a young soldier who has been accused of releasing classified information pertaining to possible U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. We are concerned that the U.S. Army has charged Bradley Manning with “aiding the enemy,” a capital offense that is punishable by death. We have questions about why Mr. Manning has been imprisoned for 17 months without yet having had his day in court. We are troubled by reports that Mr. Manning has been subjected to prolonged solitary confinement and other abusive treatment tantamount to torture. And we are disappointed that the U.S. government has denied the request of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture to meet privately with Mr. Manning in order to conduct an investigation of his treatment by U.S. military authorities.

We call upon the United States government to allow Juan Mendez, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, to conduct a private meeting with Bradley Manning, the accused WikiLeaks whistle-blower. Mr. Mendez has made repeated requests to American officials to meet privately with Mr. Manning in response to evidence that he was subjected to abusive confinement conditions while he was detained at a facility in Quantico, Virginia. Mr. Manning was held in solitary confinement for 23 hours per day during the eight months he was incarcerated at that location. It appears that he was at times forced to sleep and stand at attention without any clothing. His legal counsel has documented additional incidents which indicate the possibility of other rights violations.

Hundreds of U.S. legal scholars have signed an open letter to the Obama administration, arguing that the conditions of confinement endured by Mr. Manning at Quantico may have amounted to torture. Following worldwide calls for an end to the abusive treatment, Manning was moved to a facility in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where his conditions are said to have improved. The U.S. military conducted an internal investigation into the allegations of mistreatment at Quantico. The preliminary results of this investigation found that Mr. Manning was improperly placed on “prevention of injury” status, against the recommendations of qualified medical personnel. However, these findings were ultimately overturned by a military prison official who was implicated by the report. Therefore, the U.S. military’s internal investigation has been compromised by clear conflicts of interest. This so-called “prevention of injury” status was the justification for a number of extraordinary measures, such as denying Mr. Manning comfortable bedding and not allowing him to exercise.

By preventing U.N. officials from carrying out their duties, the United States government risks undermining support for the work of the United Nations elsewhere, particularly its mandate to investigate allegations of torture and human rights abuses. In order to uphold the rights guaranteed to Bradley Manning under international human rights law and the U.S. Constitution, it is imperative that the United Nations Special Rapporteur be allowed to properly investigate evidence of rights abuses. PFC Manning has a right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. People accused of crimes must not be subjected to any form of punishment before being brought to trial. Finally, we in the European Union are totally opposed to the death penalty. And we certainly do not understand why an alleged whistleblower is being threatened with the death penalty, or the possibility of life in prison. We also question whether Bradley Manning’s right to due process has been upheld, as he has now spent over 17 months in pre-trial confinement.

Furthermore, Bradley Manning should not be forced to waive his right against self-incrimination in order to speak with anyone who seeks to investigate evidence of abuse in their official capacity.

Consistent with these internationally-recognized standards, as well as the rules governing his mandate, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez must be allowed to conduct an unmonitored meeting with Bradley Manning, without any further delay.