Tag Archives: UN Special Rapporteur Juan E Mendez

Quantico: We Still Need the Full Facts

Bradley Manning was moved from the Quantico marine brig at the end of April after many months spent in a particularly severe form of solitary confinement. That his conditions have now improved does not in any way reduce the need for the breaches of his rights that occurred at Quantico to be investigated and for appropriate redress to be made.

Last month the US Navy provided its formal response to the charge that Bradley was put under suicide watch for inappropriate reasons back in January. Despite the fact that the then Commander of the Quantico brig, James Averhart was removed from his post as soon as information about what had happened came to light, Juan M. Garcia, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, decided that Averhart had not “exceeded his authority” in the way he dealt with the case. As both the fact of Averhart’s departure and the confused, panicked way in which it was effected are highly suggestive of wrongdoing being discovered and hurriedly acted upon, this decision was a little surprising.

Today, Politico have revealed details of an internal Quantico review from February. It is worth noting that Politico have met with considerable obstruction on the part of the Marine corps in their attempts to access this report; indeed, their first two Freedom of Information Act requests were rejected, and the subject of two successful appeals to Navy officials to have those requests reinstated.

The information that Quantico have been keen to keep hidden is that, in his report dated 23 February, Chief Warrant Officer Abel Galaviz found that Averhart and his colleagues had broken Navy rules by not removing Bradley from suicide watch status “immediately” when a medical officer recommended this course of action:

“Once the medical officer’s evaluation was provided to brig staff, steps should have been taken to immediately remove him [Bradley Manning] from suicide risk, to a status below that”

Galaviz’s report mentions two separate periods in which Bradley was not removed from suicide watch quickly enough: in January 2011, it took three days for Quantico to implement a medical recommendation and in August 2010 Bradley spent a full five days under unnecessary suicide watch. This means that, in both cases, medical personnel advised almost immediately that putting Bradley Manning under suicide watch was not appropriate.

Colonel Daniel Choike rejected these findings in his response of 1 March 2011, only to advise that, as soon as it was announced that Bradley was leaving Quantico, on reflection the brig should in fact update its procedures so that such incidents do not happen in future:

“If a medical officer determines that a detainee is no longer considered a suicide risk, that finding is binding on the PCF staff and the detainee shall be removed from suicide risk.”

This week, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendéz issued a second rebuke to the US Government for not allowing him to have an unmonitored meeting with Bradley Manning, as customary rules would warrant:

“… I need to ascertain whether the conditions he [Bradley Manning] was subjected to for several months in Quantico amounted to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. For that, it is imperative that I talk to Mr. Manning under conditions where I can be assured that he is being absolutely candid.”

It is now abundantly clear that the US Navy is not capable of reviewing the actions of its own personnel and submitting to public oversight, even where those actions have generated wide concern at home, abroad and within the US administration itself.  In light of this domestic failure, Juan Mendéz must now be allowed the access he needs to carry out his investigation into Bradley’s treatment, which includes full and confidential access to Bradley himself, without delay.

Update

The Bradley Manning Support Network have issued a press release, which includes the following statements:

“The memos revealed today by Politico confirm that military officials repeatedly violated their own standards of detainee treatment while PFC Manning was held in abusive pre-trial confinement conditions at the Quantico brig.  Commander Averhart should never have been put in a position to reject the military’s investigation into his own unprofessional conduct,” said Kevin Zeese, an attorney with the Bradley Manning Support Network.  “Justice demands that the charges against PFC Manning be dropped, because the government has acknowledged that they have abused the rights of a soldier in their custody.”
“President Obama can no longer hide behind his subordinates in claiming that the treatment of PFC Manning has met ‘basic standards’ of conduct,” added Jeff Paterson, a co-founder of the Bradley Manning Support Network.  “Clearly, by the government’s own admission, the treatment of PFC Manning has fallen far short of the standards demanded by the Constitution.”

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!

Public meeting at the House of Commons – Tuesday 24 May

The first anniversary of Bradley Manning’s arrest in Iraq falls next week, coinciding with Barack Obama’s State visit to the United Kingdom. On the eve of the US President’s address to both Houses of Parliament, there will be a public meeting at the House of Commons to discuss Bradley’s case – not least the likelihood of him receiving a fair trial.

The case of Bradley Manning:
Hero, enemy of the state, information champion, victim?

Ann Clwyd MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Human Rights
David Leigh, The Guardian
Emily Butselaar, Index on Censorship

pTuesday 24th May 2011, 6pm – 7.30pm
Boothroyd Room, Portcullis House, House of Commons

On the week that President Obama visits the UK and on the one year anniversary of Bradley Manning’s arrest and detention, a panel discusses the issues raised by the case of Bradley Manning and what happens now.

Bradley Manning is the US soldier accused of leaking information to the WikiLeaks website. Until 20th April, he was held in prison conditions which attracted the condemnation of human rights organisations around the world and which promoted an investigation by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture.

Manning has yet to face trial, but when he does it will be in a US Court Martial. Can Manning receive a fair trial in the military courts system? What should our attitude be towards the charges levelled against Manning? What has been the effect of the WikiLeaks disclosures and what role did they play in the Arab Spring revolutions? What does the treatment of Manning say about the United States’ attitude to whistle-blowers?

This meeting is open to the public to attend.
Entry is via Portcullis House
This event is free. There is no need to register.

We look forward to seeing some of you there.

Update I

The Guardian have published this report from the meeting, focusing on Ann Clwyd’s concerns about Bradley receiving a fair trial (“it should be in public and not a closed military trial”) and Emily Butselaar’s comments on the Obama administration’s broader policy on whistleblowers.

Update II

Press resulting from our meeting has brought the issue of unlawful command influence very much back into the spotlight. As the impact of Obama’s statement depends very much on how many people get to hear about it, we are delighted to see Time Magazine include it in their reporting. In the same piece, Kevin Zeese of the Bradley Manning Support Network argues that Obama’s words have already spread so wide as to make dismissal of Bradley’s case the only sensible option:

“The only way the military can claim there is no undue influence in this case would be a charade–[it would be] officers claiming they are not [listening to] their Commander-in-chief. The military courts have held over and over that if undue influence can be proven the case should be dropped.”

Zeese added that he performed a google search with “Obama, Manning and guilty” and found 1.5 million hits on April 24, the day after Obama’s remarks hit the internet, suggesting that Obama’s comments went viral and were thus unavoidable.

We are also delighted that renowned human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has added his voice to the campaign:

“The President, who is a former lawyer, should know better. This would be contempt of court in the UK. Such a high-level assertion that Manning is guilty must seriously prejudice the likelihood that Manning will receive a fair trial,” said Mr Tatchell.

Ann Clwyd: “Mrs Manning should have had the courtesy of a reply”

Almost exactly a month ago, Foreign Office Minister Henry Bellingham admitted in the House of Commons that Bradley Manning is a UK citizen by descent (as we have always argued here), that diplomatic representations would be made to the United States Government on his behalf and that any request from Bradley’s family for consular access “would be looked at.” Bradley’s mother Susan wrote a letter to the Foreign Secretary William Hague on 13th April asking for precisely this: that someone from the British Embassy in Washington be sent over to see Bradley (something they would do for any other prisoner in his position, certainly one facing the death penalty) and that the Embassy would provide assistance to the family in making their visits to Bradley easier.

It has now been three weeks since Bradley’s mother wrote that letter and the Foreign Office, although they “understand [the] concerns” about what has been happening to Bradley, have not yet deigned to send Susan a response. Today, our suspicions that they might be stonewalling were confirmed. At just after 3pm this afternoon (Tuesday), Ann Clwyd MP raised the case of Bradley Manning at Foreign and Commonwealth Office Questions. She had submitted a written question to Foreign Office Minister Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt and then made a follow-up question in person.

Those in the UK may view this encounter on BBC iPlayer for the next seven days. Ann’s question appears at 34.20.

Clwyd (written question): Have discussions been held with the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture about Bradley Manning?

Burt: Mr Speaker, we are aware of discussions which the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez has had with the United States Government, but the Foreign and Commonwealth [Office] has not had any discussions with him on the case of Bradley Manning.

Clwyd: I have raised the question of Bradley Manning on several occasions, in this Chamber and outside. Mrs Susan Manning, who is Bradley Manning’s mother, wrote to the Foreign Secretary three weeks ago. She has not yet had a reply.

She asked for consular assistance; she asked for someone to visit her son in the very bad conditions he has been held in and she also asked for any help they can give, in Washington and elsewhere, to the family if they so request it. At the very least Mrs. Manning, who is very concerned about the situation of her son, should have had the courtesy of a reply.

Burt: The honourable lady knows, through the adjournment debate she had on precisely this subject, that Bradley Manning does not consider himself a UK citizen and his lawyer has made it very clear that he doesn’t consider that he has any contact with this country. We therefore cannot discuss his nationality and we are limited both of what we can say and what we can do in relation to this case. But his lawyer is well aware of the circumstances and is well aware of the position of the United Kingdom Government.

Ann Clwyd – needless to say – was not satisfied with this answer and went on to make a point of order later in the afternoon (you can find the transcript below). She was then informed that the British Government would not be willing to send someone to see Bradley, unless Bradley himself should request that they do so.

Not only are the Foreign and Commonwealth Office snubbing Bradley’s mother, they are now also flying in the face of established consular practice – as it should be remembered that not only is there is an allegation of torture in Bradley’s case, he is also facing the death penalty. Given that the British Government has now made two separate diplomatic representations to their American counterparts about Bradley’s treatment, their reluctance to follow this up with a consular visit – as any prisoner in Bradley’s position could expect as a matter of course – does seem rather odd.

The law on consular access between the US and UK is very clear that the only thing that would prevent a visit to Bradley being made, should the Foreign Office decide to send someone, is Bradley specifically stating that he didn’t want it to happen. As it stands, there is no legal or procedural barrier to the FCO sending someone from the Embassy over to Fort Leavenworth: there is only a lack of will to do so. Emails to MPs and additional signatures to Early Day Motion 1624 would certainly help us let the FCO know that this is not acceptable.

Update I

Ann Clwyd’s point of order may now be read in Hansard – the transcript makes the extent of the FCO’s backtracking extremely obvious:

Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I know that half the Cabinet are not supposed to be talking to the other half, but I hope that Foreign Office Ministers are talking to one another. I say that because the answer given to me by the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the hon. Member for North East Bedfordshire (Alistair Burt) on the case of Bradley Manning is misleading.

I have raised this issue on several occasions. I raised it with the Foreign Secretary on 16 March and again during business questions on 17 March. I raised it once more during an Adjournment debate on 4 April, when I was told that

“a senior official in our embassy in Washington called on the US State Department on 29 March”

to discuss Private Manning’s terrible situation in prison. The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the hon. Member for North West Norfolk (Mr Bellingham) went on to say:

“the right hon. Lady’s understanding of the British Nationality Act 1981 is accurate. Any person born outside the UK after 1 January 1983 whose mother is a UK citizen by birth is British by descent.”

He continued by saying that Mr Manning’s family had not made a “direct request” for help,

“but obviously, if it comes to consular assistance of any kind, we will look at that request as and when one is made.”—[Official Report, 4 April 2011; Vol. 526, c. 873-74.]

Such a request was made to the Foreign Secretary on 11 April by Bradley Manning’s mother, who said that she now understands that

“according to British law, Bradley qualifies as a British national.”

She continued:

“I visited Bradley at the end of February…I was very distressed by seeing Bradley”

in the condition he is in—

Mr Speaker: Order. I am extremely grateful to the right hon. Lady, who is a very experienced Member of the House. I know that she would not accuse any Minister of wilfully misleading the House; I am sure that she meant to say that she thought that the Minister was inadvertently misleading the House. She will understand, and the House will appreciate, that we cannot continue Foreign Office questions now. However, as the Minister, who is among the most courteous of Ministers in the House, is on the Bench ready and waiting with bated breath to respond, he should do so.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Alistair Burt): I am very grateful to you, Mr Speaker, for allowing me some extra time. Nothing that the right hon. Lady has said is wrong in any way. Her concerns were conveyed to the State Department by an official of the Government, but the crucial point is that although I can well understand her concern and what Bradley Manning’s mother may have done, we are not able to respond to that, as any request for assistance has to come from the individual. I can only stress what I have said to the right hon. Lady, which is that Bradley Manning’s lawyers are aware of the UK Government’s position and they are also aware of how to change it. That is the situation. I can help the right hon. Lady further only in private, rather than on the Floor of the House. I hope that is all right.

Update II

The Guardian are now covering the FCO’s disgraceful stonewalling in an excellent piece, which includes the following strong statement from Ann Clwyd:

“Their refusal to respond to Susan Manning or support Bradley Manning can’t be [because of] a genuine confusion over his nationality, the responsibility the British government have for him or the conditions in which he is being held,” she said.

“There is no room for genuine confusion over these issues,” she added, pointing to comments by Méndez, who has been investigating whether Manning’s treatment to date amounted to “cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment” or torture. “This avoidance game they are playing can only be completely deliberate,” she said.

As a British citizen facing the death penalty abroad, Bradley Manning should have received a visit from a representative of this country long ago. The FCO are as aware of this as we are and their prevarication does them no credit at all.

Update III

Good to see that blogs are now picking up on the story in the wake of the Guardian’s coverage.

Bradley Manning no longer in solitary confinement – but it doesn’t end here

As of Friday morning, Kansas time, Bradley Manning will no longer be in solitary confinement, no longer under a Prevention of Injury Order and no longer under the kind of conditions that have made the Obama Administration the subject of widespread condemnation from around the world. The formal announcement was made at the end of a press tour of the Fort Leavenworth pre-trial facility yesterday evening.

According to Associated Press, Bradley will now be housed with other military inmates awaiting trial – in his own cell, but with access to a communal area- and will have the opportunity to associate with others during three hours of daily recreation time. He will now be able to make telephone calls and freely receive letters (once they have been inspected) for the first time since his arrest, almost a year ago – subject to a restriction of having only twenty items of correspondence in his cell at any one time. Some footage of where Bradley is to be housed may be viewed here. All of this is, in the main, clearly good news.

Nevertheless, we should be aware that what we are celebrating here is the move of a prisoner awaiting trial – a prisoner who has now been awaiting trial for almost a year, itself problematic – into conditions that befit an ostensibly civilised country. In passing Bradley at his initial assessment, Fort Leavenworth have implicitly accepted that the Quantico authorities were wrong in keeping Bradley under a Prevention of Injury Order for ten months, against the repeated recommendation of military psychiatrists, that James Averhart was wrong in putting Bradley on suicide watch (well, we knew that one already) and that Denise Barnes was wrong in stripping Bradley of his clothes and his dignity.

Bradley is not a suicide risk. If he were, he would not now be being housed with other prisoners. What happened to Bradley at Quantico was and continues to be an outrage against universally accepted minimum standards and common human decency. Redress simply must be sought for this in due course and we will continue to press for this to happen. It continues to be absolutely key that independent authorities such as UN Special Rapporteur Juan Mendez be allowed confidential access to Bradley so that he may talk freely about what he was forced to endure for those ten months. We have had no indication that the restrictions imposed under Bradley’s Monitoring Order have been lifted.

Do not be under any illusions that the US military have now decided to treat Bradley in civilised fashion out of the kindness of their hearts: they will have done this because this campaign – and its sister campaigns internationally – have made it absolutely impossible for them to do otherwise. We have taken the treatment of Bradley Manning to the highest level in at least three countries and publicised his plight to the extent that he is now the subject of wide popular support internationally. All of this has, clearly, made an enormous difference and is testament to the ability of those with valid concerns to provide effective oversight to the illegitimate use of government authority.

We must now turn our attention to the wider legal process and what is likely to happen to Bradley at trial. Subpoenas citing the controversial US Espionage Act have been issued this week, an ominous move that should remind us all that this stage of the process is drawing ever nearer. We have concerns about how any trial is likely to be conducted. We have already seen Barack Obama pre-judging Bradley’s guilt and this “unlawful command influence” seems likely to become an issue when this case comes before a judge. It is also important that any trial takes place in the full light of public scrutiny. More now than ever, justice must not only be done in this case, it must also be seen to be done.

Now that it has been confirmed that Bradley Manning may receive correspondence – albeit that he’s only allowed to hold on to 20 letters at any one time – you may like to take the opportunity to write to him. His address at Fort Leavenworth is the following:

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

Update

Further details on Bradley’s conditions at Fort Leavenworth from National Catholic Reporter. Note the careful phrasing that indicates that Bradley Manning’s Monitoring Order, which prevents him from speaking to anyone other than his lawyer in monitored conditions in which he may incriminate himself, may well still be in place:

The commandant of the Fort Leavenworth facility, Lt. Col. Dawn Hilton, said the suspected Army private’s new classification — which “starts tomorrow morning” — allows Manning to receive Army inspected mail freely, make phone calls, and meet with preapproved visitors.

Prisoners at the facility are housed separately depending on whether they have or haven’t faced trial. There are currently ten “pre-trial” prisoners at the facility, said Hilton. Each are placed in individual 80 square foot cells and are connected by a shared common room to three other cells.

During the tour of the six-month-old facility, members of the press were able to see its indoor recreation center, work rooms, outside recreation area, medical facilities, and an empty cell block which Army officials said was similar to the one where Manning is housed.

Each of the cells contained a metallic toilet and sink, along with a bed and metal seat attached to the wall. There was a light switch on the wall inside the cell. Army officials said the space gives the prisoner 35 square feet of “unencumbered space” which can be used for exercise, including jogging in place.

Medium custody prisoners are afforded three hours of recreation each day, one hour of which is outdoors, Hilton said. They also have allotted time each day to use a recreational library. No internet use is allowed by inmates.

The indoor recreation facility was housed inside a large, gym-like structure with six basketball hoops and about a dozen stationary exercise machines. The outdoor area, located on the north side of the complex, was about a football field long, with an open grass field, two basketball courts, and more exercise equipment.

Hilton said prisoners’ visitors must be approved by the facility. While visits by journalists are forbidden, visits from nongovermental organizations such as Amnesty International are decided “on a case by case basis.” Prisoners are allowed to have up to five visitors at one time.

Update II

As was widely expected, Bradley Manning has been found fit to stand trial.

Update III

In the wake of David Coombs’ confirmation that Bradley’s conditions have indeed changed, the Bradley Manning Support Network have issued a press release making clear the contribution of the campaign in getting this done. The Guardian have picked up the story today and they make due note of the British dimension.

Gareth Peirce on Bradley Manning – “The conditions he is held in are utterly intolerable”

Gareth Peirce is one of Britain’s most eminent human rights lawyers. Her most celebrated cases include that of the Guildford Four – who were the victims of one of the UK’s most notorious miscarriages of justice, involving the police fabrication of evidence – and Moazzam Begg, a British citizen who experienced US extrajudicial detention at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and then at Guantánamo Bay. Gareth is currently taking a case through the European Court of Human Rights that may end European extradition of certain categories of prisoners to the United States on the basis that the US Constitution does not offer the same protections as may be expected under the European Convention on Human Rights and that, in particular, these charters differ widely on the subject of solitary confinement.

This speech by Gareth was first screened on April 17th. 2011 as the keynote address at a public meeting entitled “Free Bradley Manning! End the War!” at Giuseppe Conlon House in London. The video puts what has been happening to Bradley in the context of wider issues in the US justice system and is well worth viewing in full; Gareth was also kind enough to say some words about the impact of the UK campaign to date. Selected quotes follow below the video.

“It is important that there is a big a campaign as there can be about Bradley Manning. It is incredibly impressive how many people are coming forward to say that the conditions he is held in are utterly intolerable, as indeed they are. But it would be a tragic waste of a process of a learning on the part of a wider world to not realise that this is how America treats its prisoners.”

“The deprivation of any individual of the company of his fellow man or woman is not simply the grimness of isolation, the grimness of being only with your own thoughts for all time. It actually has severe psychological effects, it causes irreparable damage to the individual and – more surprisingly perhaps – physical damage to the brain. So the infliction of solitary confinement on any individual is certainly on the cusp, if it is prolonged, of torture.

“There is another aspect to this, which is – what is the purpose of this? Is it punishment before the individual has been ever tried and convicted, or is it something else? And this is the other why and wherefore of how America deals with its criminal justice system.

“97% of people facing trial in America plead guilty. That is an extraordinary statistic. Why do it? They do it in large part because, by pleading guilty, you have a chance of negotiation and escaping the worst of the sentences that face you. If you become a cooperating witness you have another chance to escape what might be a pretty brutal fate in terms of the time you might spend serving a sentence.

“Is this what is happening to Bradley Manning? Is he under this kind of duress, this form of punitive isolation in the hope that he might become a cooperating witness against Julian Assange and therefore pave the way for an extradition request that might not otherwise be possible?”

“In this country we find it easy to condemn how others treat their prisoners, to say that we are horrified at how the death penalty still exists in America. We find it easy to say we are horrified by the continuing atrocity that is Guantánamo but, nevertheless, when you dig you find how complicit we have been here in the perpetuation of practices. How our ministers, our civil servants, our intelligence agencies combined and were complicit in the unlawful removal to Guantánamo of British citizens and British residents. Enough has been disclosed to make that process crystal clear.”

“It is a curious irony that in trying to unravel exactly what is happening to Bradley Manning in isolation, under duress, being coerced, one is having to dig deeper into the secrets of the state, of the US and how it treats its prisoners.

“In that there has been so extraordinary a campaign now that has required our Foreign Office, that has required ministers to take up the cause of a man who has a Welsh mother; insofar as that demand has been made and has been pursued, insofar as it has woken up a hundred law professors in the United States to wake up and write an open letter in the New York Times and say they regard the treatemnt of Bradley Manning as violating all of the guarantees of the US Constitution. Insofar as it is provoking that degree of public knowledge, then ironically it is providing a public service in itself.”

Update

I have just heard (16.06.11) that Gareth Peirce is now representing Julian Assange. This is excellent news for all concerned.

Bradley Manning is leaving Quantico – but does this really change anything?

News broke last night (Tuesday) of Bradley Manning’s “imminent” move from the Quantico marine brig to a new pre-trial facility at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas.

The Department of Defense held a press conference at 5.30pm their time on Tuesday, putting forward their reasoning for moving Bradley and for doing so at this particular time. The transcript and video of the press conference are available to view in full, but here’s a short clip:

Jeh Johnson, General Counsel at the Department of Defense here argues that, due to Bradley having now given the personal interview required for his mental competency (706 Board) hearing, his “presence in the Washington DC area is no longer necessary for that purpose,” notwithstanding that the review is still ongoing and may not report for a while yet. He went on to say the following:

Many will be tempted to interpret today’s action as a criticism of the pre-trial facility at Quantico. That is not the case. We remain satisfied that Private Manning’s pre-trial confinement at Quantico was in compliance with legal and regulatory standards in all respects, and we salute the military personnel there for the job they did in difficult circumstances.

At this juncture of the case, given the likely continued period of pre-trial confinement, we have determined that the new pre-trial facility at Fort Leavenworth is the most appropriate one for Private Manning going forward.

That the conditions Bradley has been experiencing have been up until now have been “in compliance with legal and regulatory standards” is, obviously, highly questionable. Moreover, as P.J Crowley has remarked on twitter this afternoon, these remarks could very well be interpreted as an admission that mistakes had been made in keeping Bradley at Quantico for such an extended period. An unnamed military official has been even more candid (“The marines blew it.”)

Other revealing points from the full press conference included:

  • Army Secretary Joseph Westphalcommenting that the detention facility at Fort Leavenworth was a “medium security” one, which offered many resources – but there was no assurance that Bradley Manning would be transferred to a medium security regime from the maximum security plus prevention of injury order he suffers under currently, or that he would be granted access to any of those resources. Should Bradley’s regime continue as it is at present, he would likely be housed in the special confinement unit of the pre-trial facility, which has been described to me as follows:

    These cells are even worse than where Bradley is now, in that the room Bradley will be confined in for 23 hours will have a solid door with only a thin horizontal slot through which meals and mail can be slid through, and a panel at the bottom of the door that guards can open to chain his ankles together before he leaves the cell. Instead of guards constantly watching him through bars, he will have security cameras in his cell. He will have a glass pane for outside light, but not be able to see out or talk to anyone. The isolation is going to be even crueler, if that’s possible.

    While the DoD may say that Brad will be eating in a common area and get to go outside for up to 3 hours of exercise, this is in reality a privilege granted to inmates who are “good prisoners” after they get there, and Brad has been denied every single privilege available to him no matter how well he behaves.

    The likeliness of this eventuality may be indicated by the fact that Army Press updated the special housing unit web page on Monday, in advance of the press conference in which Bradley’s move was officially announced.

  • Jeh Johnson, drawing on his experience of federal trials remarking that, when Bradley does return to Washington to face trial (which he must to as he remains under the jurisdiction of the military authorities there) his trial may very well prove to me “a multi-month if not multi-year experience.”
  • Lt. Col. Dawn Hilton, the Commander of the pre-trial facility at Fort Leavenworth, admitting that any changes to the conditions of Bradley’s confinement would be “based upon the initial assessment when he comes into the facility and environment and how he assimilates into the environment.”

Finally – and intriguingly for those who have been watching the UK campaign closely – when asked about the timing of the decision to move Bradley Manning, Jeh Johnson admitted that “We began to look at this a couple of weeks ago.” This dovetails almost exactly with the timing of Ann Clwyd’s adjournment debate of the evening of Monday 4th April, when it was promised that a senior official at the British Embassy in Washington would be making a second diplomatic protest to their counterpart at the US State Department, this time with the background of an official recognition that Bradley Manning is a British citizen by descent.

As reported here earlier today, Ann Clwyd has said that “I am pleased that the campaign to draw attention to the appalling detention treatment of Bradley Manning appears to be having some results, in that he is to be moved to another prison which the US Department of Defense claims will provide better conditions.” We agree with Ann that any indication of better conditions is, at the moment, purely based on the words of the Department of Defense – and, as discussed above, they were careful not to promise that Bradley Manning’s status as a maximum security prisoner under a prevention of injury order will change.

Given that Department of Defence statements on how Bradley Manning is being treated have not been conspicuously reliable in the past (how shall I count the ways? Let’s start with this, this, this and this – not to mention this), we believe that the onus is firmly on the DOD to demonstrate in due course that Bradley’s treatment has improved so that it meets internationally accepted minimum standards. Lifting the Monitoring Order that prevents respected authorities from visiting Bradley in conditions of confidentiality would probably be a good way of achieving this in the first instance and would do much to demonstrate that the DOD is serious about being seen to treat Bradley Manning in a civilised fashion.

(big thanks to Michelle Tackabery for all the background information on Fort Leavenworth)

Update I

Press releases have been issued by Dennis Kucinich and the Bradley Manning Support Network. The latter makes the important point that the move to Kansas places Bradley at some distance from his legal counsel and much of the US side of his family. However, if the Pentagon reckoned that the move would prevent high-profile protests like that seen at Quantico a month ago happening again, they will disappointed: local activists are getting organised and a demonstration is already being planned for 4th June.

Update II

The always-instructive Chirpinator has compiled a selection of Tuesday night’s reaction to the announcement of Bradley’s move on twitter.

Update III

Bradley Manning is now at Fort Leavenworth. His family have welcomed the move with Bradley’s aunt Sharon expressing the view that the ongoing campaign was responsible for these latest developments.

Update IV

Good to see that Amnesty feel similarly to us:

“We believe sustained public pressure for the US government to uphold human rights in Bradley Manning’s case has contributed to this move” said Susan Lee, Amnesty International’s director for the Americas.

“We hope Bradley Manning’s conditions will significantly improve at Fort Leavenworth, but we will be watching how he is treated very closely. His conditions at Quantico have been a breach of international standards for humane treatment of an untried prisoner.”

The organisation will be monitoring the conditions under which Bradley Manning is confined at Fort Leavenworth following the risk assessment Manning will undergo upon arrival there, which could last up to a week.

“Until this assessment, it is still not possible to know how Bradley Manning is going to be treated, and what restrictions he will be under at the new detention centre,” said Susan Lee.

“Bradley Manning is entitled to be treated humanely and, as an unconvicted prisoner, to the presumption of innocence and to be held under the least restrictive detention conditions possible.”

As does Dennis Kucinich on the reliability of DOD statements:

“Frankly, I don’t believe anything they say when it comes to Bradley Manning.”

Complete footage of Kucunich’s Wednesday interview with MSNBC may be viewed at firedoglake.

Visiting Bradley Manning – Can Quantico Deny Consular Access? (Part I)

The list of elected representatives expressing their concerns over the conditions of Bradley Manning’s pre-trial detention is growing. On Wednesday, the human rights committee of the German Bundestag released details of a letter that had been sent to Barack Obama describing those conditions as “unnecessarily hard and [of] a penalizing character.” This follows questions asked in the European Parliament, the Scottish Parliament and of course at Westminster (which has now brought us to this wonderful point).

Notwithstanding these successes, the answer supplied to one of those questions deserves some attention; it comes from Catherine Ashton, Vice President of the European Commission and EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy:

EN
E-001527/2011
Answer given by High Representative / Vice President Ashton
on behalf of the Commission
(5.4.2011)
The EU institutions are aware of the allegations referred to in the question. We have received no independently verifiable information that would substantiate the allegation of torture to soldier Bradley Manning. But we treat the publicly available reports with all the seriousness due to any allegation of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and will continue to monitor how these are being dealt with by the US authorities.

At this point, it is clear that “independently verifiable information” about what is happening to Bradley is sorely needed. It is therefore unfortunate that Quantico seem to be determined to obstruct attempts to gather that information at every turn. As has been widely reported, on Friday Bradley’s legal representative David Coombs announced that the US Congressman Dennis Kucinich, Amnesty and the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez had all been denied the opportunity to speak to Bradley in a private, unmonitored situation. The marine brig’s own rule book (paragraph 3.17b) defines such an ‘official’ visit as follows:

These visits are for the purpose of conducting official government business, either on behalf of the prisoner or in the interest of justice. Visits from lawyers. military officials. civilian officials, or anyone listed as a privileged correspondence in paragraph 3.17f of this regulation, having official business to conduct are considered official visits and may be authorized by the Commanding Officer to visit at any time during normal working hours.

The denial of such a status to the UN Special Rapporteur is highly irregular and means that he cannot carry out his job: not only has Bradley been given good reason in the past not to comment about the conditions of his detention in front of military personnel, the Pentagon has made clear that anything Bradley says in such a monitored situation may potentially be presented in evidence against him at trial.

To have a prominent UN official announcing that he is “”deeply disappointed and frustrated by the prevarication” of multiple branches of the US Government should be embarrassing enough – and let’s be quite clear here, it is profoundly embarrassing, not least when public concern has produced half a million signatures on an Avaaz petition and what looks to be a top-10 showing in Time’s 100 poll – but, if anything, the denial of ‘official’ status to Dennis Kucinich is even more difficult to justify. The brig rules cited above stated that anyone who met the criteria for ‘privileged’ (ie. non-intercepted) correspondence would automatically qualify to visit in an official capacity. The categories of privileged correspondence, according to the brig rules, are as follows:

a. The President or Vice President of the United Siaies.
b. Members of Congress of the United States.
c. The Attorney General of the United States and Regional Offices of the Attorney General.
d. The Judge Advocale General of each military service or his/her representatives.
e. Prisoners Defense Counsel or any military/civilian attorney of record.
f. Any attorney listed in professional or other directories or an attorney’s representative.
g. Prisoner’s clergyman, when approved by the chaplain.

That Dennis Kucinich, who is after all a member of the US Congress, was denied the status of an official visitor therefore appears to be a quite egregious breach of the rules. In an article published on Wednesday, Kucinich revealed a little more about the dimensions of the situation:

When Pfc. Manning indicated his desire to meet with me, I was belatedly informed that the meeting could only take place if it was recorded because of a Monitoring Order imposed by the military’s Special Courts-Martial Convening Authority on September 16, 2010, which was convened for the case. Confidentiality is required, however, to achieve the candor that is necessary to perform the oversight functions with which I am tasked as a Member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. I was also told that I could be subpoenaed to testify about the contents of my conversation with Pfc. Manning.

This is a clear subversion of the constitutionally protected oversight process and it severely undermines the rights of any Member of Congress seeking to gather information on the conditions of a detainee in U.S. custody.

It therefore appears that it is the existence of this Monitoring Order that lies behind the Pentagon’s assertion that only lawyers are allowed to visit Bradley Manning without those visits being monitored and it seems that official visits will continue to be denied until the Order is lifted.

There may yet be another means of securing “independently verifiable information” on the conditions of Bradley’s confinement, however. On Wednesday morning, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office acknowledged the receipt of an official request for consular access from Bradley’s mother. In her letter, Susan Manning specifically asks that an official of the British embassy be sent to see Bradley (“if you can make that happen”) to “check on his conditions.” Susan also notes that “I do not believe that Bradley is in a position to be able to request this himself, so I am asking as his mother on his behalf.”

***

Juan Mendez’s condemnation of the United States’ refusal to allow him unmonitored access to Bradley Manning was a big enough story to make it on to Channel 4 news:



PART II – preview

Not only is the obligation of states to respect other countries’ requests for consular access enshrined in treaty law, our research indicates that specific rules governing the access of British consular officials to nationals held in pre-trial detention in the United States guarantee the right of those consular officials “to converse privately” with the subject of their visit – something which is also noted in the advice the US State Department provides their own consular staff. As agreements between sovereign states, ratified by Congress, these pieces of international legislation would presumably overrule the guidelines of the Quantico brig. Further information on this will appear here very shortly.

(Many thanks to Serena Zanzu for the European Parliament link)

How the British Government is Failing Bradley Manning

Just a couple of weeks ago, the Guardian reported that Bradley Manning “is a UK citizen by descent from his Welsh mother, Susan.” This was the first time this statement had ever appeared in the British press and the fact of Bradley’s UK citizenship is now firmly on the record.

In that same article, the Guardian also revealed that this country has yet to offer Bradley Manning anything in the way of consular support. An official at the British embassy in Washington was quoted as saying that the case “hasn’t crossed our path.”

This failure to offer consular support should be of great concern to all British friends of Bradley Manning.  In cases of dual nationality, the British Government would normally make informal representations to the state concerned as a matter of course. This has not happened in the case of Bradley Manning.

More than this, a formal representation may be expected in cases where the Foreign and Commonwealth Office sees a “special humanitarian reason” to get involved. In 2008 Kim Howells MP, then a Minister of State at the FCO, clarified the UK Government’s position on providing consular assistance to dual nationals where there is an allegation of torture:

“If we become aware of an allegation of torture against a dual UK national held in the country of their other nationality, it is likely we would seek consular access and we would carefully consider raising the allegation with the local authorities.”

We are only a few weeks into 2011, but there have already been three occasions this year when the British Government really should have sought consular access on behalf of Bradley Manning.

On 13th January 2011, the New York Times reported that the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan E. Mendez had submitted a formal inquiry to the US State Department. A formal inquiry initiated by the UN’s Special Rapporteur constitutes a clear “allegation of torture.”

On 24th January 2011, Amnesty announced that they had written to US Defence secretary Robert Gates during the previous week. Amnesty’s Americas Programme Director, Susan Lee, spoke of her concern that “the conditions inflicted on Bradley Manning are unnecessarily severe and amount to inhumane treatment by the US authorities. Such repressive conditions breach the US’s obligations to treat detainees with humanity and dignity. We’re also concerned that isolation and prolonged cellular confinement, which evidence shows can cause psychological impairment, may undermine Bradley Manning’s ability to defend himself.”

Finally, on 26th January 2011, the Commander of the Quantico marine brig, James Averhart was dismissed following the revelation that Bradley Manning had been placed under suicide watch for two days for punitive rather than medical reasons. This is evidence of wrongdoing – a senior official exceeding his authority – showing that not only has the US military failed to abide by international human rights standards in this case, it has also failed to abide by the rules it sets for itself.

The three instances above are clear evidence of a ‘special humanitarian reason’ to intervene – in fact, it is hard to imagine how the case could possibly be any clearer. As Clive Stafford Smith rightly said in The Times last week, “If the British were principled, they would intervene.”

In the circumstances, the British Government has an absolute responsibility to seek consular access to Bradley Manning. That no attempt appears to have been made is definitely something worth writing to your MP about – and if you’re stuck for what to write in your letter, the contents of this blog post may provide a good starting point.