Tag Archives: pembrokeshire

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)

Advertisements

#March20 reports – London, Wrexham

Around 100 protesters, including some who had traveled from Scotland and Wales, met outside the US embassy in London on Sunday to pledge their support to Bradley Manning and stand up against what is happening to him at the Quantico marine brig. They were joined by speakers Peter Tatchell, Bruce Kent, Loz Kaye, Ben Griffin, Giorgio Riva and Didi Rossi, Ciaron O’Reilly, Naomi Colvin and teenagers from Pembrokeshire in Wales.

The London event was well-reported in major media, including the Daily Mail and BBC Wales (here and here). Indymedia produced an excellent report and further photos from the event are available here and here.

IMG_7062

London #march20

A report from our Welsh group, who were well-represented at the action:

12 people came from the Welsh county where Bradley Manning went to school and his family still live to the London demo. Three girls who were contemporaries at school with Bradley said they felt they had made a real difference.

They sang a Nina Simone song, What It Means To Be Free, which they learnt over the weekend. They made personal, moving speeches. In one, Tilly Costen said “We represent the young people of Pembrokeshire, we were brought up to tell the truth and I think it is very unfair if someone is punished for telling the world the truth.” Tessa Hope said, “Bradley Manning has shown incredible courage and is doing in what he has to endure, he is an inspiration to me.” Rosey Seymour added “If the laws mean that exposing war crimes is a crime then perhaps we should look at those laws and change them.”

The group had never spoken publicly before: Tilly said the last time she tried was at school and she went to pieces and was laughed off the stage.

Kett Seymour sang Imagine as he felt Bradley Manning had an imagination of a future in which, through the internet, ‘All the world would be as one.’ He said: “I was born 20 miles from where Bradley Manning lived and I went to school in the same town. They just cant do this to one of us.”

Chris May came with his teenage daughter. He replied to an internet attack on the campaign and found he was in dialogue with a senior military officer in USA who said ‘We are the Alphas of the Alphas.’ The long dialogue ended with the officer thanking Chris and saying he had made him rethink his position, but could not continue because he was being deployed within hours in Afghanistan. Chris urged campaigners to communicate with people they do not usually speak to, and to put themselves in their shoes.

Vicky Moller, coordinating the Welsh campaign, asked: “Can a small country like Wales can take on the might of the US military and win? This is really a bigger issue than the treatment of one man, it is humanity and honesty and Hywel Da justice pitted against vengeful justice, cruelty and secrecy.”

The rally was attended by 100 people including media. The group commented that those attending were very serious and motivated, this was not a rent-a-mob situation. There were many speeches and a Bradley actor in manacles. The rally was organised by an impromptu group including the Welsh group who arranged things with the police. “A very well organised event” commented one of the officers at the end.

IMG_7130

London #march20

London was not only #March20 event taking place in the UK: there was also a vigil in Wrexham, Wales. Organiser Genny reported that:

This event was worth doing just for the interaction with local
ex-soldiers who, like so many, were obviously struggling to cope with
life after the army, but who stopped and listened, were indignant and
concerned for Bradley Manning and who wrote heartfelt letters to him
there and then and took information away with them to share. We didn’t
have to do much explaining to them about Bradley’s situation – they knew
the score straight away.

A full report, including photos, is available on Indymedia. Further images are available here.

Letter-writing in Wrexham

Letter-writing in Wrexham

#March20 proved to be an inspirational Sunday afternoon, but we are not planning to stop there. This Thursday, 24 March, there will be a public meeting in Wales. Further events will be reported on this website in due course.

Speakers announced for London #March20 event

We’re really pleased to announce that the following speakers will be joining us outside the US Embassy on Grosvenor Square in London this Sunday:

Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner
Bruce Kent, Vice-President CND
Loz Kaye, Pirate Party UK
Ben Griffin, former SAS soldier and Iraq War resistor
Ciaron O’Reilly, London Catholic Worker
Naomi Colvin, UK Friends of Bradley Manning
Current pupils from Tasker Milward School in Haverfordwest

Peter Tatchell has provided us with the following statement:

“The regime to which Bradley Manning is being subjected by the US authorities amounts to torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, which is illegal under the UN Convention Against Torture and under US law. Given that Manning is a British citizen, the UK government should be demanding an end to the abuse he is suffering.”

We’re also delighted to have pupils from Bradley’s former school coming to Grosvenor Square to join us. London is a marathon journey from Pembrokeshire yet these teenage girls feel so strongly about what is happening to Bradley that they are giving up their weekend to come and address the crowd.

Please join us there. Our facebook event page is here and we’ll be meeting on Grosvenor Square at 2pm. The nearest tube stations are Marble Arch and Bond Street.

Upcoming Public Events – London / Pembrokeshire

We’re getting organised. Two events are planned in the coming couple of weeks – a demonstration outside the US Embassy in London on Sunday 20th March and a public meeting in Wales on Thursday 24th March. Full details follow – we would love to see you there.

LONDON DEMONSTRATES IN SUPPORT OF BRADLEY MANNING on 20th March

On the 8th Anniversary of the Invasion of Iraq, demonstrators are gathering internationally to protest the plight of 23 year old Bradley Manning, the alleged whistleblower at the heart of the Wikileaks revelation of war-crimes that shocked the world. This young man has been held in solitary confinement in the US for almost eight months under conditions described as torture, without being convicted of a single crime.

Speakers tbc.

Meeting 2pm, 20th March at the US Embassy, Grosvenor Square, London

Bradley is alone in a windowless room for 23 hours a day, and his only outing is to walk alone and in chains in another. He is permitted no other exercise. He is not allowed to sleep between 5am and 8pm, and must give verbal responses to his guards every 5 minutes. He has no sheets or pillow and must sleep with his face visible to the guards or they will enter the cell to wake him. Quantico authorities claim this is to prevent self- harm, but even their own prison psychologists deny this is necessary.

Amnesty International has denounced the inhumanity of his treatment. So have lawyers, politicians, psychologists, and civil rights groups throughout the world, and the UN is investigating it as suspected torture. Still nothing is done. Since March 2nd Bradley has also been stripped of his clothing at night and is forced to stand to attention naked for morning roll call.

Bradley Manning is an American soldier, but he is also a British citizen by descent from his Welsh mother. We in this country have a special duty to give him our support, yet even though he is now facing a charge that carries the death penalty he has not even received British consular support. Despite Amnesty’s pleas for their intervention, the UK government has not spoken a word in his defence.

So today we’re doing it for them. From all over the UK, concerned British citizens are joining under the banner of ‘UK Friends of Bradley Manning’ to show solidarity with the international protests, to stand up for humanity and the presumption of innocence – and to demand that the US authorities

STOP THE TORTURE OF BRADLEY MANNING

For additional information please write to 20march@ukfriendsofbradleymanning.org The facebook event page is here and you can find details of the the other events planned for 20th March here.

If there’s nothing happening in your area, there is still time to set something up: it doesn’t have to be large or elaborate. If you’d like further advice on this, there is an email list for prospective organisers. We can probably give you the advice you need.

Here’s Wales:

PUBLIC MEETING IN WALES 24 March

Wales has a special duty towards Manning as his family live here and he went to school in Pembrokeshire.

Truth Juice Pembrokeshire are hosting a public meeting with a speaker on Bradley Manning’s treatment and future at 7pm on 24th March in Newport Pembrokeshire.

The organiser said: “There has been a great response to this idea among our members.

“Our organisation exists to let the public know the truth that is being suppressed. We meet weekly, sometimes twice weekly and often need the main hall for our large audiences.

“The presentation on Bradley will not only cover his unique punitive treatment classified as torture, but also the widening debate on the ethics of wikileaks and the explosive growth worldwide of the movement in defense of Bradley Manning.”

For further info, please contact Vicky@ukfriendsofbradleymanning.org

Update

Feelings are running high in Wales, as evidenced by today’s report in the Western Telegraph. There will be more of this to come.