Category Archives: Letters

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.

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A Letter to William Hague

Naomi Colvin
UK Friends of Bradley Manning

Rt. Hon. William Hague MP
Foreign & Commonwealth Office
King Charles Street
London
SW1A 2AH

28 April, 2011

Dear Mr. Hague,

I hope this letter finds you well.

It has now been over two weeks since Susan Manning wrote to you expressing her concerns about the welfare of her son, Bradley, and the conditions he is experiencing in pretrial detention in the United States.  It is my understanding that Mrs. Manning has not yet received a response from your office.

As you know, just over a week after Mrs. Manning wrote to you – and just over two weeks since your colleague Mr. Henry Bellingham confirmed in the House that diplomatic representations on the subject of Mr. Manning would be made to the US State Department for a second time – Mr. Manning was moved from the marine brig at Quantico, Virginia to the Joint Regional Correction Facility at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas.  The news briefing given by the US Department of Defense on the eve of Mr. Manning’s move suggested that some relaxation in the onerous conditions of his detention might be expected at Fort Leavenworth.

However, as of today, eight days after Mr. Manning’s transfer, there has been no indication that this will in fact be the case.  I note that that the same Department of Defense briefing gave the time-frame for Mr. Manning’s ‘initial assessment’ – upon which any amelioration of his conditions will depend – as “anywhere from five to seven days.”  We are therefore now at the point where some news could be expected.  In the absence of this information, Mr. Manning’s conditions continue to be of considerable concern to his family, friends and many observers around the world.  I note, incidentally, that in my most recent correspondence with the FCO (dated 19 April, copy enclosed), Julie Hannan wrote that “We understand your concerns about Mr. Manning’s treatment.”

In her letter of 13 April, Mrs. Manning requested, on her son’s behalf, that a representative of the British Embassy in Washington visit Mr. Manning, to speak with him and check on his conditions.  Given the lack of information coming from Fort Leavenworth, a visit to ascertain whether Mr. Manning’s conditions have in fact improved would be very welcome at this time.

Yours sincerely,

Naomi Colvin

UK Friends of Bradley Manning

Enc. Julie Hannan 19 Apr 2011 – FCO

Welsh Churches Express Their Concern

This week the international forum of CYTÛN – Churches Together in Wales – wrote to the US ambassador to express their concern about the treatment of Bradley Manning and ask for an assurance that his conditions meet the minimum standards that should be expected in a “civilized country.”

His Excellency The Ambassador of the United States of America

Your Exellency,

The Churches of Wales have received representations concerning the treatment of Bradley Manning,
the young man who is being held on suspicion of leaking information.

We are aware that this young man was brought up in Wales and that his mother is Welsh. We are
concerned that reports of the conditions in which he is being held suggest that they could amount to
mental torture. Naturally, we hope that these reports are exaggerated since we know that he is being
held in a civilised country.

We should be grateful if you could assure us that his conditions are in no ways inhumane or degrading.

Yours sincerely,

Christopher Gillham
(Chairman of the International Forum of CYTUN)

CYTÛN represents practically every Christian denomination in Wales and their intervention is a sign of how prominent an issue Bradley’s case is becoming there. We are extremely grateful for CYTÛN’s support.

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.

Amnesty weighs in

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
trial.

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?