Tag Archives: Julian Assange

Peter Tatchell on Bradley Manning – “A True, True Patriot”

The following is taken from an address Peter Tatchell gave at a public meeting at Giuseppe Conlon Hall on 9th July 2011.

I’d just like to end on Bradley Manning and his courageous stand. For all these months. It is really a great tribute to Bradley Manning that he has been able to stand firm and not capitulate to pressure from the authorities despite really gross ill-treatment, that probably amounts to torture under the terms of the United Nations Convention. The fact that he’s stood his ground during all those months in isolation, in solitary confinement with all the deprivations he’s suffered… that shows he is not in fact the weak man that The Guardian and others have portrayed, but that he is in fact a very strong person of great moral and physical endurance.

It is fantastic that he has remained unbowed and unbroken for all this time and fantastic that he is determined to carry on the fight.

I remember reading one of the reports about what allegedly motivated him to allegedly leak information. It was soon after he’d been sent to Iraq. He’d witnessed Iraqi police detaining people who had been protesting against the US and British backed governments over allegations of corruption and various abuses. They’d produced leaflets which criticised the government of Nouri al-Maliki over these abuse and corruption allegations. For that they were arrested and Bradley was shocked to discover that the US was colluding with the Iraqi police in the suppression of the right of freedom of protest and expression in Iraq. In this supposed new democracy, in many ways echoing the kind of oppression that existed under Saddam Hussein. When he raised this issue, he was told to go away, that more people should be arrested and detained. That is supposedly one of the things that got him thinking about and questioning the remit of the US in Iraq and perhaps led him to start questioning other things the US military was doing in Iraq and indeed in Afghanistan.

Many people call Bradley Manning a traitor. To me he is a true patriot. He is standing by the true principles and ideals of the founding people of the United States – government of the people by the people for the people. He is standing for an accountable democratic government, for the people’s right to know what the government is doing in its name. These were all the ideals on which the United States was founded, flawed though that founding document was and flawed though the practice of that document was with slavery and the abuse of Native Americans. Nevertheless those principles were there and, to me, Bradley Manning is seeking to honour them.

He is a true true patriot – you could almost say a modern Paul Revere, warning us of the abuses that are happening in our name.

I think all of us, if we were in that situation, I don’t know what we’d do. I’m sure that most of you here would certainly seriously think about blowing the whistle – but I’m sure we’d all be very nervous of the consequences, and quite rightly so. To be separated from family and loved ones, to have our future freedom diminished, to have perhaps a chosen career denied… these are all big big sacrifices. But we know that all through history, every human progress has been based on people taking risks and making sacrifices. Think of the Chartists, the Suffragettes, the Black Civil Rights movement, the struggle for people in the former colonies to win their freedom and their independence. All of these struggles were conducted at great personal risk by very very heroic individuals. And to me Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, and Bradley Manning are those kind of people and I’m really proud to support them.

The full footage of this address may be seen under the cut. Many thanks to Val Brown, who filmed the meeting.

Update

Peter Tatchell’s full address is now on youtube in two parts:

Former SAS soldier and conscientious objector Ben Griffin also spoke at the meeting, on the subject of how armed conflict is reported in the media and the official management of what information is allowed to become public. Ben Griffin’s testimony puts WikiLeaks’ release of this video, as well as the Afghanistan and Iraq War logs in their proper context.

When I left the army, I started speaking out against the [Iraq] war because I wasn’t happy with my own experience of the war compared with what was being reported back home. I wanted to get a message across of what was actually happening out there and what we were involved in.

The Government wasn’t too happy about this and they took me to the High Court. There was a secret trial and they gagged me. At the same time an internal investigation was started by the Ministry of Defence to investigate the claims that I’d made.

I was dragged into MOD and they were basically fishing to see how much information I knew. I was asking about this investigation and they were saying it was classified information I wasn’t allowed to know.

It turned out that the investigation wasn’t actually an investigation into what we were doing, it was an investigation into how much people knew and how much information they would have to give out so that the story could be put to bed. So it wasn’t a real investigation, it was just a covering arses exercise.

So I remember being asked in this interview, “So Mr Griffin, you’ve made these allegations – what evidence have you got?” And I was sat there on my own in this room thinking, well, what evidence do you want me to have? I wasn’t taking photos or keeping a diary or using a dictaphone whilst I was in Iraq. And I could see smiles on these guys’ faces because they could tell I didn’t have anything. They could continue their investigation, put out their misinformation and it would all be forgotten about.

That WikiLeaks has provided another source of evidence for conscientious objectors to cite in support of their position is, in Griffin’s view, a “victory” for those who find themselves in his position.

It is only proper to conclude this piece by mentioning that British Navy Medic Michael Lyons is currently serving a seven month prison sentence for refusing to deploy to Afganistan. Supporters will be holding a vigil at Colchester Military Corrective Training Centre on Saturday 6 August at 3pm.

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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.

An Innocent Question

Now that US military sources have admitted that they have comprehensively failed to link Bradley Manning with Wikileaks and Julian Assange personally, could they ease up on the treatment Bradley is receiving please? Why continue to apply pressure for a confession that cannot be made?

Update

According to CBS yesterday, US investigators are saying that they never expected to find a “direct link” between Bradley Manning and Julian Assange. My personal reaction to this particular revelation is strictly of the “yeah, right” variety, but this part of the article is undoubtedly true:

The case against Army Pfc. Bradley Manning didn’t hinge on investigators uncovering a direct link to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange anyway, CBS News National Security Correspondent David Martin reports.

Bradley Manning is in great need of our support and there needs to be much greater public awareness of the gravity of his case – this certainly applies in the UK, but internationally too. Also of note in the CBS report is this, which I haven’t seen reported elsewhere:

Manning’s lawyer told The Associated Press Friday that a mental-health investigation to determine if Manning can stand trial will likely begin in February.

I believe that the military is obliged to bring a case before the autumn, when Bradley Manning’s tour of duty would have ended.

(Thanks to wikileaksfan1 for bringing the CBS story to my attention)