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:
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.
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.
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.
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.