Tag Archives: torture

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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Quantico: We Still Need the Full Facts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Update

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

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

RevolutionTruth: an Open Letter to Bradley Manning

RevolutionTruth Bradley Manning campaign

We are thrilled that citizen-driven media project RevolutionTruth have decided to launch a campaign in solidarity with Bradley Manning. This is their second major campaign, following a hugely successful appeal for Wikileaks, which has now resulted in the production of a short film that includes contributions from around the world (as well as from a US film director of note). A further film on Bradley Manning will be forthcoming and has the full support of this campaign and the Bradley Manning Support Network: we encourage you to sign the open letter and submit your video message.

Bradley,

We hope that this letter finds you healthy and strong. You have already seen adversity that most people do not bear in a lifetime, and we are sadly aware of the hardships you face. We are sending this letter to you in the hopes that our feelings of support may help you to bear these days. We want you to know that we, people all over the world, are fighting for you. We can gladly say that we are many.

Your case has become a great symbol to all of us. It has bound us together in an awareness of our shared interests, shared responsibilities, and shared fate. There is much that we do not know, but irrespective of the truths of your particular case, your flag has become the standard of an indefatigable civil movement, straddling generations and borders, striving inexorably against the great injustices of our time, for which the injustices you suffer are the tragic emblem. Your tenure in that small prison cell has reached across the world, moving many people, ushering a generation to awareness and action. Your name is on all our lips, and your face, for us, is an icon of moral courage.

You stand accused of upholding justice when her bearers let her banner fall. You are accused of actions that no law should rightly prohibit while remaining law. When the law is turned against conscience and courage, it is turned against itself. Our society has lost its way.

Your prosecution under this ruse of justice is already written into history as a persecution, not of one man, but of us all. It is not a single injustice, but an injustice to end the pretense of justice. It is unique and urgent. It is wrong that you suffer, while those who committed the crimes that were exposed, who started a horrific and unjustifiable war based on lies, are excused. Whether you did what you are accused of or not, what you have gone through since your arrest would be unimaginable for most of us. You are a hero among us. We cannot, and will not, turn away from supporting you.

We are keenly aware of your sacrifice. Be strong for us, Bradley, because we know that you suffer as one of us, for us. We will be relentless in our efforts to see justice done by you. Accept our fellowship, and know this: you are forever ours now and we salute you, and forever thank you.

We hold you in our hearts. We stand with you.

We are all Bradley Manning.
Your brothers, sisters, friends,

The undersigned.

Noam Chomsky – US treatment of Bradley Manning “obviously improper”

In a recent interview on the current situation in Venezuela, and in particular the imprisonment of judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni for political reasons, Noam Chomsky suggests that the US Government’s treatment of Bradley Manning compromises that country’s ability to comment about what happens elsewhere.

It’s obviously improper for the executive to intervene and impose a jail sentence without a trial. And I should say that the United States is in no position to complain about this. Bradley Manning has been imprisoned without charge, under torture, which is what solitary confinement is. The president in fact intervened. Obama was asked about his conditions and said that he was assured by the Pentagon that they were fine. That’s executive intervention in a case of severe violation of civil liberties and it’s hardly the only one. That doesn’t change the judgment about Venezuela, it just says that what one hears in the United States one can dismiss.

It’s probably worth noting that The Guardian did not initially include these comments in their interview transcript, only doing so after the protests of bloggers and Chomsky himself. Considering how much The Guardian has done to bring Bradley Manning’s case to wide attention in the United Kingdom, their failure to highlight a relevant statement from one of the world’s leading radical theorists is a little disappointing.

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.

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.

#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.

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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.

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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.