And about time too. The contents of a letter sent to US Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates last week have been released. Here are a few of the critical paragraphs:
Amnesty International recognizes that it may sometimes be necessary to segregate prisoners for
disciplinary or security purposes. However, the restrictions imposed in PFC Manning’s case appear to
be unnecessarily harsh and punitive, in view of the fact that he has no history of violence or disciplinary
infractions and that he is a pre-trial detainee not yet convicted of any offence.
The conditions under which PFC Manning is held appear to breach the USA’s obligations under
international standards and treaties, including Article 10 of the International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights (ICCPR) which the USA ratified in 1992 and which states that “all persons deprived of
their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human
person”. The UN Human Rights Committee, the ICCPR monitoring body, has noted in its General
Comment on Article 10 that persons deprived of their liberty may not be “subjected to any hardship or
constraint other than that resulting from the deprivation of liberty; respect for the dignity of such
persons must be guaranteed under the same conditions as for that of free persons …”.
The harsh conditions imposed on PFC Manning also undermine the principle of the presumption of
innocence, which should be taken into account in the treatment of any person under arrest or awaiting
trial. We are concerned that the effects of isolation and prolonged cellular confinement – which
evidence suggests can cause psychological impairment, including depression, anxiety and loss of
concentration – may, further, undermine his ability to assist in his defence and thus his right to a fair
There are now a sizeable number of medical, psychological and international legal authorities who have expressed serious concerns about the conditions Bradley Manning is experiencing at the Quantico brig. Some of these authorities would be inclined to use the word ‘torture’ to describe these conditions and, indeed, the situation is now under official investigation from the UN’s Special Rapporteur on torture, Juan E. Mendez.
Bradley Manning is a dual UK/US citizen and as such is entitled to consular assistance from the UK. The UK Government tends not to intervene where dual citizens are involved with their other nation of citizenship, apart from in cases where they see “a special humanitarian reason to do so” – but I would have thought that a case under investigation by the UN and Amnesty would qualify, frankly. So just where is the British Government’s comment on all this?