Tag Archives: US embassy

“What was most encouraging was the number of Americans who said they agreed with the message.”

Sister Susan Clarkson of Oxford Catholic Worker held a series of Wednesday vigils for Bradley Manning outside the US Embassy over the course of Lent.  Here’s her report:

“During Lent I made a decision to do a weekly 2 hour vigil at the American Embassy in London for Bradley Manning. The main sign I took read FREE BRADLEY MANNING: BLOWING THE WHISTLE ON WAR CRIMES IS NOT A CRIME! I chose to do this vigil because it was Lent and, as a Christian, it seemed a meaningful way of uniting Bradley’s situation with Jesus’ suffering and death. Just before beginning the vigils I heard a play on the radio about Mordechai Vanunu and was struck by similarities between him and Bradley.

“I held the vigil for six Wednesdays and was joined on two of them by friends. The vigil spot was just in front of the main entrance where people were lining up to go into the visa offices. There were many young people there, signing up for Camp America and similar projects. The majority ignored me but I had no negative responses at all. What did happen was that several people stood and talked about Bradley with me and asked questions. Every person who spoke to me took a leaflet. What was most encouraging was the number of Americans who thanked me for being there and said they agreed with the message. The times of silence were very powerful for me as I prayed for Bradley and his captors. I reflected on a sunny day on how he was deprived of sunlight and as I stood in the rain I thought of how he would have loved to feel the rain drenching him. As the time for Bradley’s trial approaches I intend to return to Grosvenor Square and hold vigil again, demanding his freedom. We can live in hope!”

(Thanks to wiseup for the original coverage)

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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.

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)

Forthcoming events – London

1st April: From the London Guantánamo Campaign:

“Shut Down Guantánamo!” demonstration (in solidarity with Bradley Manning)

12-1pm: US Embassy, Grosvenor Square, London, W1A 1AE (nearest tube: Bond Street/Marble Arch)

1.15-2.15pm: Speaker’s Corner, Hyde Park, W1 (nearest tube: Marble Arch)

Join us on April Fool’s Day as we protest the foolishness of arbitrary detention and the practice of torture.

Please note the change to the time and place of the monthly demonstration – we will be holding a lunchtime demonstration outside the US Embassy and then on the pavement outside Speaker’s Corner, Hyde Park.

As well as continuing to demand the immediate release and return to the UK of Shaker Aamer, and justice for the prisoners still held at Guantánamo, Bagram and similar prisons, we will be holding this month’s demonstration in solidarity with dual US-UK national Private Bradley Manning, a 23-year old intelligence analyst in the US army, accused of leaking confidential data to the Wikileaks website. Mr Manning, who went to school in Wales, was arrested in Iraq last year and currently faces several dozen charges, including “assisting the enemy”, which carries the death penalty. The data he is alleged to have leaked, including film, has exposed the US military’s actions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay and elsewhere. A British national, the UK government has so far chosen largely to ignore his plight and the abuse he is facing on a daily basis at a US military jail.

Please join us for a part of or all of the demonstration.

The London Guantánamo Campaign

The London Guantánamo Campaign

If you cannot join the demonstration, we ask you to contact your MP and urge them to sign the following EDMs: 1093 on Guantánamo Bay and 1624 on the treatment of Bradley Manning:

For more details, e-mail london.gtmo@gmail.com

17th April: London Catholic Worker are putting on a solidarity event with speakers to include Gareth Peirce together with anti-war artists, activists, speakers and performers from Iraq, Afghanistan, US, Britain, Australia and New Zealand.

London Catholic Worker event for Bradley Manning 17th April (front)

London Catholic Worker event for Bradley Manning 17th April (front)

London Catholic Worker event for Bradley Manning 17th April (back)

London Catholic Worker event for Bradley Manning 17th April (back)

There will be more of this to come – for sure.

#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.