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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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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)

Today in Parliament – Bradley Manning’s Citizenship Status Confirmed

At just after 10pm this evening (Monday) Ann Clwyd MP addressed the House of Commons on the subject of ‘The Treatment of Bradley Manning’.  We would like to take this opportunity to thank Ann for her continued support and tenacity, which has brought frankly amazing results this evening.  We will post the full transcript of the debate as soon as it appears in Hansard (the official verbatim record of Parliamentary proceedings) but here, in the meantime, is a summary of the response of Henry Bellingham MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.  It covers some incredibly important ground.

Henry Bellingham noted that the case was of concern not only to a number of MPs, but “obviously” in Wales as well as in the country as a whole.

He then asserted the place of human rights as “an irreducible core” of UK foreign policy. Furthermore, an essential part of that core is a commitment to the eradication of “cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.”

“The conditions an individual is detained in must meet international standards… this is particularly important in pretrial detention.”

When determining what level of security is appropriate pre-trial, factors such as the seriousness of the offence and the safety of the defendant may be taken into account, but ultimately conditions must be justified by the relevant authority in each instance.

In general, the UK feels that pre-trial conditions in the United States meet internationally recognised standards; they are also open to be challenged by defendants.

Furthermore, Barack Obama has been questioned about the conditions Bradley Manning is experiencing in pretrial detention and has said that he has been assured that these are “appropriate and meet basic US standards.”

Bellingham went on to note that the US has an “effective and robust judicial system,” that Bradley Manning was receiving active legal representation and that “we must not interfere” in this process.

Notwithstanding all the above, if concerns are raised then, as a government, “we have an obligation to listen.” On 16th March Ann Clwyd raised concerns to the Foreign Secretary, William Hague, at a meeting of the Foreign Affairs Committee. A day later, Ann raised the issue again in the House during Business Questions. An Early Day Motion was presented.

It appears that these concerns are widely shared. Henry Bellingham noted that over 30 MPs had reported their constituents’ concerns to the Foreign Office.

On 29th March a senior official in the British Embassy in Washington called his counterpart in the US State Department. He handed over a copy of the “uncorrected evidence” of Ann Clwyd’s exchange with William Hague at the Foreign Affairs Committee, together with a copy of Early Day Motion 1624. This official drew attention to the fact that this debate in the UK now existed at the level of Parliamentary interest.

Bellingham notes that the representative of the US State Department took note of the above and agreed to take these concerns forward. This shows, said Bellingham, how “the strength of our relationship empowers us to raise difficult issues.”

Bellingham acknowledged that “many feel we should do more.” He stressed that he could not comment directly on Mr Manning’s citizenship status – partly out of respect for his privacy and partly because it would be inappropriate to do so without Mr Manning’s express consent. Bellingham also noted that Mr Manning’s military lawyer David Coombs had noted in a blog post that Bradley does not hold a current UK passport and “does not consider himself British.” Bellingham asserted that “it is clear he is not asking for our help” and therefore the standing of the UK Government in this matter is limited.

However, Henry Bellingham then acknowledged that Ann Clwyd’s “understanding of the British Nationality Act is accurate.” A child born abroad after 1983 to a British citizen “not by descent” automatically acquires citizenship at birth.

[& Bradley Manning is therefore a British citizen… just in case anyone reading this was still in any doubt]

Julian Lewis, the Conservative MP for New Forest East was then allowed to interject. He noted that Bradley Manning has been accused of extremely serious offences and that the viability of any resulting prosecution might well be brought into question by abuses occurring pre-trial. The US Government was in danger of snatching “defeat out of the jaws of a sort of victory.”

Henry Bellingham was then given leave to continue. He counselled all in the Chamber to “recognise the limitations on UK involvement.” To date, he noted that the UK Government had not received a request for consular access from the family, but that “we will look at such a request” if one were made. In the meantime, Mr Manning does have access to legal counsel and “we are confident that US judicial processes are sound.” He concluded by assuring the House that in light of this debate he “would instruct our embassy to again report our concerns to the State Department.”

To summarise – the British Government has tonight recognised that Bradley Manning is a citizen of the United Kingdom. His plight is of wide concern in the UK, as evidenced by over thirty MPs conveying their constituents’ concerns onwards to the Foreign Office – and, by the way, all those reading this who did write to their MP should feel very proud of themselves right now.

The Government has also revealed that representations about Bradley’s treatment have been made on a diplomatic level and that they will be again as a result of tonight’s debate. Not only this, but Parliament has been assured that a request for consular access from the family will be “looked at” should one be made. Tonight’s events have been extraordinarily positive and we trust that developments on this latter point will emerge in short order.

Update

The full proceedings may now be viewed in Hansard. Ann Clwyd’s address is well worth reading in full, but here’s an extract:

I am not raising Bradley Manning’s case because he is a British national but because I believe his treatment is cruel and unnecessary and that we should say so. I am also chair of the all-party group on human rights and so I often raise human rights cases from around the world. They might be in Burma, Chechnya, East Timor, China, or, sadly, too many other places besides. I do not raise them because they involve British citizens, but because they involve human rights abuses or wrongdoing and because I am in politics because I want to do something to try to stop those things happening.

I want the British Government to raise Bradley Manning’s treatment with the US Administration because his treatment is cruel and unnecessary and we should be saying so. We cannot deny, however, that Bradley’s connection to the UK adds an additional dimension.

Bradley’s mother, Susan, is Welsh and lives in Pembrokeshire. Bradley lived and went to school in Wales between the ages of 13 and 17. There is a great deal of interest in the UK, and in particular in Wales, in Bradley’s case and much of that is grounded in his close connection to the UK. Both London and Wrexham have seen protests against Bradley Manning’s treatment, and I pay tribute to those people in the UK who have raised his case.

Perhaps the Minister will take this opportunity to clarify, on the record, just what the position is with regard to British nationality. My understanding is that under the British Nationality Act 1981 anyone born outside the UK after 1 January 1983 who has a mother who is a UK citizen by birth is British by descent. Perhaps the Minister will assist us by confirming that that is the case. I am aware that Bradley Manning’s lawyer has issued a statement that Bradley is not asserting any kind of UK nationality. I know that, but from the point of view of British law, is it the case that Bradley Manning qualifies for British nationality?

Part of Bradley’s family live in Pembrokeshire and their son is in a military prison in Virginia in the US. They are being contacted by journalists, campaigners and politicians who are trying to raise the case. This is a difficult situation for any family to deal with. What kind of consular, official or other support could be made available to Bradley’s mother and family? When they visit Bradley in the US, for example, can they expect assistance from British embassy staff in the US? Can they receive advice and assistance in understanding the charges faced by their son, and perhaps advice, too, about the issue of British nationality?

I hope that the Minister can give two undertakings tonight-first, that the British Government will officially raise the case with the US Administration, and secondly, that the Government will consider what support they could provide to the British family of Bradley Manning as they try to do whatever they can to help Bradley.

Update II

The Bradley Manning Support Network have just issued a press release praising the latest British developments:

“We welcome the support of the MPs, who join Amnesty International and activists worldwide in urging the U.S. to end this inhumane pretrial punishment,” said Jeff Paterson, steering committee member of the Bradley Manning Support Network and project director of Courage to Resist. “Thirty-seven British parliamentarians have shown their commitment to justice and a fair trial,” said steering committee member Mike Gogulski. “We hope to see twice as many American legislators respond with a similar motion.”

Update III

Ann Clwyd’s speech may now be viewed online, together with Henry Bellingham’s reponse – which provides the official Government confirmation of Bradley’s citizenship status:





Confirmation that the UK Government is now applying diplomatic pressure on behalf of its citizen, Bradley Manning, has been covered widely in the international press with only the BBC’s own parliamentary coverage failing to be fully candid about the salient facts. I am aware of reports on WL Central and firedoglake, in the Washington Post, the Detroit Free Press, CBC, The Register and from AP. New York Magazine and The Guardian have been kind enough to quote me in their coverage and I note that Alan Rusbridger specifically emphasised the importance of Bradley’s case when accepting an award for Newspaper of the Year at the Press Awards last night.

I also note that three additional signatures have now been added to Early Day Motion 1624, which brings the total up to 40.

(with thanks to leaksource.wordpress.com and to Alex Weir)

Press Release from Ann Clwyd MP

Press Release
Rt Hon Ann Clwyd MP

Member of Parliament for the Cynon Valley since 1984
Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee
Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Human Rights Group

18th March 2011

Bradley Manning

Ann Clwyd MP said:

“I have raised the case of Bradley Manning on a number of occasions in Parliament this week. On Wednesday, I raised his case with the Foreign Secretary in a session of the Foreign Affairs Committee. On Thursday, I raised the case with the Leader of the House during Business Questions. I have tabled an Early Day Motion on the treatment of Bradley Manning and I have applied to the Speaker for a debate.

“On 10th March, Bradley Manning’s lawyer released a memorandum from Bradley Manning to the Commanding Officer of Quantico Marine Base which described his detention conditions.

“Throughout his detention he has been classified a ‘Maximum Custody’ detainee and held in solitary confinement. His ‘Prevention of Injury’ (POI) status means he is kept in his cell for 23 hours a day. His is stripped of all clothing during the night and given a coarse and uncomfortable ‘smock’. He is not permitted to sleep during the day.

“During the period when he was classified a ‘Suicide Risk’, he was required to remain in his cell 24 hours a day, his glasses were taken away from him, rendering him blind.

“He has been made to stand naked and to attention ‘on parade’ for the Brig Superviser.

“This treatment serves no purpose other than to humiliate and degrade Bradley Manning.

“His conditions ignore the recommendations of the Marine Corps’ own appointed psychiatrists’ reports.

“Bradley Manning calls his conditions “improper treatment” and “unlawful pre-trial punishment”. Human Rights Watch has called upon the US government to “explain the precise reasons behind extremely restrictive and possibly punitive and degrading treatment that Army Private First Class Bradley Manning alleges he has received”. Amnesty International UK has said “Manning is being subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. This is particularly disturbing when one considers that he hasn’t even been brought to trial, let alone convicted of a crime”.

“Bradley Manning’s treatment is cruel and unnecessary.

“I regard myself as a great friend and admirer of the United States. But this treatment of one of their own soldiers ill-becomes that otherwise great nation.

“I do not say this lightly, but Bradley Manning’s treatment has uncomfortable echos of the treatment of detainees in Guantanamo Bay.

“I implore the US Administration to treat Bradley Manning humanely whilst he is detained.

“There is increasing concern about Bradley Manning’s case in the United Kingdom, and in particular in Wales, where Bradley’s mother lives and where he went to school.

“So I will continue to raise the case of Bradley Manning with the UK Government. I do not think it is acceptable for the UK Government to refuse to engage with the case and I call upon the Foreign Secretary, William Hague, to officially raise Bradley Manning’s case with his US counterpart.”

ENDS

Editors notes

Text of Early Day Motion 1624

That this House expresses great concern at the treatment of Private First Class Bradley Manning, currently detained at the US Quantico Marine Base; notes the increasing level of interest and concern in the case in the UK and in particular in Wales; appeals to the US administration to ensure that his detention conditions are humane; and calls on the UK Government to raise the case with the US administration.

Bradley Manning’s memorandum statement of 10th March 2011 can be found here.

William Hague questioned by Ann Clwyd – footage and transcript

The Foreign Secretary William Hague was today directly questioned for the first time on the UK Government’s position on the case of Bradley Manning. Footage of today’s meeting of the House of Commons’ Foreign Affairs Committee may be viewed here. Ann Clwyd’s question appears right at the end of the meeting, at 16:46:43 and a transcript of her exchange with the Foreign Secretary, William Hague, follows below.

Clwyd: I want to raise with you the question of Bradley Manning, the US marine, who at present is in a military prison – untried and unconvicted – and the treatment that has been given him. He has been kept in solitary confinement over the past ten months, he is denied access to the normal things that one has every day. He is made to stand naked outside his cell every morning and so on and so forth. And as you know, Hilary Clinton’s press spokesman has been forced to resign over the comments that he made over the treatment of Bradley Manning, calling it “counterproductive and stupid.”

Bradley Manning’s mother in Welsh, from Pembrokeshire. She has visited him recently and everyone is very concerned about his treatment. I wonder if you can raise it, or have raised it, because there is a lot of public interest in the treatment of Bradley Manning.

Hague: Well, on this particular case, Mr Manning’s lawyer apparently wrote on the 2nd February on his blog that “Mr. Manning does not hold a UK passport, nor does he consider himself a UK citizen.” Beyond that we can’t comment on an individual’s nationality without their consent. And in that situation, of course, our standing on this matter is limited. He is not asking for our help, nor considering himself British.

In general, conditions in US prisons do meet international standards. Solitary confinement is a procedure used in many countries. It is deemed to offer protection both to the inmate and those around them. It is for his legal representative to challenge his treatment, if they judge that his treatment fails to meet international standards.

The fact that it has been raised in this committee, of course, can be brought to the attention of the United States. So it can be, and will be. But our position, from a legal and a consular point of view is as I’ve just been describing.

Clwyd: Can I just say that his legal representative published an 11-page document a few days ago, which was a statement from Manning but also a complaint from his lawyer about his treatment. So as we are receiving letters from constituents on this particular subject, I will be coming back to you on this subject.

Hague: Well, do come back to me and of course I will write you a letter so you can correspond with your constituents.

Update

The exchange is now viewable on youtube (big thanks to Alex Weir)

Update II

Ann Clwyd MP again raised the issue of Bradley Manning at Business Questions in the House of Commons this morning (17th March), formally requesting that a debate be held on the treatment Bradley is receiving in pre-trial detention. Ann noted that the case bore some similarities to the treatment “meted out” to Guantanamo Bay inmates and indicated that there was considerable public concern about the issue.

Sir George Young, Leader of the House of Commons, responded that he understood the concerns expressed by Ann Clwyd – concerns that are “widely shared.” He then indicated that although he “could not promise a debate in Government time”, the case was a “suitable subject for debate” in the Chamber.

Update III

Footage of Business Questions is now available on BBC iplayer (viewable from within the UK only) and Ann Clwyd’s question appears at 15:50. Here’s the transcript:

Clwyd: Thank you Mr. Speaker. Can we have a debate on the treatment of Bradley Manning, the young US soldier who is held in solitary confinement in the United States, accused of passing on information to Wikileaks? His mother is Welsh. He attended school in Wales for a time. There is considerable interest in his case, which I would say is similar to that meted out to people at Guantanamo Bay.

Young: I understand the concern which the Honourable Lady expresses, which I think is widely shared. I can’t promise a debate in Government time, but it does sound an appropriate subject for debate in Westminster Hall in the next few weeks.

Westminster Hall is a secondary space for Parliamentary debate in the UK and discussions that take place there are not subject to a vote. However, it does seem as if the case of Bradley Manning will be now be formally allocated time for debate in the Parliamentary schedule, which is positive indeed.

Update IV

Ann Clwyd’s question to Sir George Young may now be viewed in Hansard, the official edited verbatim report of proceedings in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

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.

How we know Bradley Manning is a UK citizen – FOR SURE

This is an important blog post. Please distribute it widely.

My legal information is sourced from the UK Border Agency, specifically their caseworking instructions for all issues arising under The British Nationality Act of 1981. This piece of legislation has formed the basis of British nationality law since coming into force on 1 January 1983 and the caseworking instructions derived from it are the guidelines Border Agency employees refer to on a day-to-day basis when deciding who is entitled to British citizenship. This is an absolutely authoritative source.

Bradley Manning is a UK citizen by virtue of his mother’s nationality. He holds both US and UK citizenship.

Bradley Manning was born in the United States on 17 December 1987, the son of Brian and Susan Manning. As the son of an American father, born on US soil, Bradley Manning has held US citizenship since birth.

Bradley’s parents met in Wales and Susan Manning has been described as ‘Welsh’ or hailing from Wales repeatedly in the mainstream media, including outlets with self-proclaimed fact-checking operations.

Susan Manning is, beyond any reasonable doubt, a UK citizen.  As far as we know she was born in the UK and is therefore not a “UK citizen by descent”. In law she is a UK citizen “otherwise than by descent”.

I would now like to refer you to Chapter 20 of the caseworking instructions for the Nationality Act of 1981. This is, remember, the working reference guide that British civil servants use every day to determine who qualifies for UK citizenship. Chapter 20 explains what rules govern the transmission of UK citizenship to children born abroad and is the crucial reference that resolves the issue of Bradley Manning’s citizenship status. We will take this step-by-step to avoid any possible confusion.

20.1.1 Every person who is a British citizen is so either “by descent” or “otherwise
than by descent”.

20.1.2 The distinction between the two affects a British citizen’s ability to transmit
that citizenship to children born abroad. It does not affect any of the other
rights or duties that go with British citizenship.

20.1.3 British citizens by descent cannot transmit their citizenship to children born
abroad except in the circumstances described in Chapter 4. British citizens
otherwise than by descent automatically transmit their citizenship to children
born abroad.

20.1.4 As a general principle, people are British citizens otherwise than by descent
if they are British citizens:
by birth, adoption, registration or naturalisation in the United Kingdom
or the Falkland Islands before 21 May 2002; or…

My working assumption is that Susan Manning was born in the United Kingdom. Hence she is a British citizen otherwise than by descent (20.1.4) and “British citizens otherwise than by descent automatically transmit their citizenship to children born abroad.” (20.1.3)

20.1.5 People who are British citizens by birth or other means elsewhere are British
citizens by descent.

A child born to a British citizen outside the UK or its overseas territories is a British citizen by descent. Bradley Manning is therefore a British citizen by descent. (20.1.5)

The issue of Bradley Manning’s dual citizenship has been the subject of some controversy and much disinformation but the situation is in fact straightforward: unless Bradley’s mother was born outside the UK, her son has also been a UK citizen automatically since birth. We will confirm that Susan Manning was born in this country as quickly as possible.  At that point, I will seek to update the Bradley Manning wikipedia article, backed up with the proper evidence, and we will be able to put this issue to bed once and for all.

Big thanks to @danhind who was indispensable in putting this together.

Update

It has been brought to my attention that, under Section 3(2) of the British Nationality Act 1981, even the children of those who are British citizens “by descent” may be able to claim citizenship. The relevant clauses are published on the UK Border Agency website:

A child will have an entitlement to be registered under section 3(2) of the British Nationality Act 1981 if:
they were born outside the United Kingdom; or
they were born after 21 May 2002 outside any of the British overseas territories; and
they were born to parents, one or both of whom are British citizens by descent; and
the parent who is British by descent was born to a parent (the child’s grandparent) who was a British citizen otherwise than by descent (or would have been but for their death); and
the parent who is British by descent lived in the United Kingdom at any time before the child’s birth for a continuous period of three years*; and
during the period they were living in the United Kingdom the parent was not absent for more than 270 days; and
the application is made before the child’s 18th birthday.

(via@musicbaebe)

The case is very nearly closed.

Update II

It has been confirmed to me that Susan Manning was born in the United Kingdom. Bradley Manning is therefore a citizen “by descent.” Bradley Manning has been a UK citizen since the moment of his birth and remains a UK citizen today. The UK Government now has some very serious questions to answer.

Update III

On 2 February 2011, the Guardian printed the following:

“Manning is a UK citizen by descent from his Welsh mother, Susan. Government databases on births, deaths and marriages show she was born Susan Fox in Haverfordwest in 1953.”

Update IV

On 4th April 2011, Foreign Office Minister Henry Bellingham confirmed on behalf of the UK Government that Bradley Manning is a UK citizen by descent under precisely the reasoning supplied above.

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