One Year On: What We Have to Do and How We’re Going to Do It

The first anniversary of Bradley Manning’s arrest falls this week and events are being held worldwide to mark this.

The international campaign in support of Bradley Manning has scored some notable successes: we have brought the facts of Bradley’s detention to a wide audience, we have elicited the concern of many influential people and we have ensured that the British Government, which has a special responsibility towards Bradley as a dual citizen, made efforts to secure his welfare. As a result of these successes, we have secured Bradley’s transfer from the brutal and arbitrary regime of the Quantico marine brig to a different facility at Fort Leavenworth. But there is still much to do.

We must ensure that Bradley is treated in a humane and civilised fashion. Bradley’s regime at Fort Leavenworth is undoubtedly an improvement on what went before, but we will be monitoring to ensure that that continues to be the case.

Past violations of Bradley’s rights must be recognised. The conditions that prevailed at Quantico for nine long months are still under investigation by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Méndez. The sacking of James Averhart this January proved that, not only had the brig authorities not met minimal standards of human rights, they also utterly failed to abide by the rules the US military sets for itself. At the time of Bradley’s transfer to Fort Leavenworth his lawyer David Coombs had been preparing a writ of habeas corpus based on reports of arbitrary and illegal administration in relation to Bradley’s case. All of this needs to be thoroughly investigated and, if appropriate, reparation should be made.

Bradley’s trial must be fair. The legal case against Bradley is now moving ahead and we have concerns about how it is likely to proceed. Barack Obama has already made a declaration of Bradley’s guilt (“He broke the law”) and, as the US Commander in Chief, he is the ultimate superior of all of Bradley’s jurors. This use of command influence raises questions as to whether Bradley’s trial can be carried out in a fair way in a military court.

Bradley’s trial must be open. Military guidelines demonstrate that there is a strong presumption in favour of courts martial being as public as possible. Our understanding is that the US military are seeking to try Bradley in conditions that are largely shielded from public view. Given the critical role public scrutiny has played to date in securing Bradley’s welfare, this is unacceptable.

Bradley’s voice must be heard. Bradley’s visitation arrangements are still subject to a monitoring order that means that all visits, other than legal ones, must be listened in to and anything that Bradley says may be used against him. This must end: Bradley deserves the chance to speak in confidence to an outside authority who can report back on his conditions at Fort Leavenworth and at Quantico. Whether that authority is Juan Méndez, an official from the British Embassy, a representative from Amnesty, Dennis Kucinich or Ann Clwyd is less important than that that visit can happen.

What you can do

After almost a year of being cut off from the outside world, Bradley can now receive correspondence. Write a letter to him at the following address:

Bradley Manning 89289
JRCF
830 Sabalu Road
Fort Leavenworth, KS 66027-2315
USA

The UK Government has a special responsibility towards Bradley, who is of course a British citizen. Henry Bellingham has said that the Government has “a responsibility to listen” to concerns raised about Bradley’s treatment – and the actions the UK Government takes on Bradley’s behalf are directly related to how vocal we can be in making those concerns heard.

  • Write to your MP and let them know that we still have concerns about Bradley, in particular that he receive a fair trial.
  • Ask your MP to sign EDM 1624. This is a useful measure of the extent of support Bradley has in Parliament.
  • Approach your other representatives, be they Assembly Members, Members of the Scottish Parliament, or Members of the European Parliament and encourage them to set up a Statement of Support for Bradley.

Tell other people about Bradley. Whether you’re holding a full-scale demo, a benefit event or just discussing things with a friend, spreading the word about Bradley’s case is incredibly valuable. As will have become obvious this week, much of the media coverage of this issue coming from the US is likely to be negative and misleading.

It’s also worth remembering that Bradley’s case isn’t happening in isolation: it’s part of a much larger offensive by the current US adminstration against whistleblowers and those who would support them. The combined impact of these actions is to send out a very worrying message: that citizens should not be able to know what it is their governments are doing and should not be able to challenge them. By educating those around you about the important role whistleblowers play, you can do much to improve Bradley’s position.

The task ahead of us may seem immense, but we should be optimistic. Dedicated campaigns on behalf of UK citizens facing disproportionate sanction in the United States have scored some remarkable successes over the past 24 hours. We have already achieved a great deal – and with concerted effort, we should be able to do more. Onwards!

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