Tag Archives: Wales

Jemima Khan – the UK Government has a responsibility to help Bradley Manning

Jemima Khan on Wikileaks from Sharron Ward on Vimeo.

This isn’t a new video – it’s been making a reappearance on social networks due to an anniversary that falls today – but I don’t think it was the subject of a blog post of its own at the time, which was an omission on my part: Jemima Khan’s statment on Bradley Manning’s citizenship status (which appears at 4:40) was one of the very first to appear and we remain extremely grateful for her support.

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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.

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.

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)

More on Early Day Motion 1624

We are really pleased that Ann Clwyd’s Early Day Motion on Bradley Manning has now been signed by 36 other Members of Parliament, including all of Plaid Cymru’s MPs and representatives from England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. This is pretty decent progress for an EDM that was tabled just over a couple of weeks ago and we expect to receive further signatures in the coming days.

Individuals writing to their MPs to request that they sign the EDM has been, and continues to be, extremely important. At present, this is by far the best means for those in the UK who are concerned about what is happening to Bradley to register that concern in an effective way. Bradley Manning is a UK citizen and the Government in this country therefore has a special responsibility towards him. At the very least, the UK should be offering Bradley its consular assistance – it is both surprising and alarming that it has not done so to date.

If you haven’t yet written to your MP, we encourage you to do so. This website makes it an easy process. Be assured that any letter you do write really does make an impact: your message will be read, its contents will be noted and any MP who deserves to continue in that post will do you the courtesy of responding. A message sent across the Atlantic will not receive the same consideration.

It is worth noting that the content of EDM 1624 is in no way controversial. Indeed, we would venture that, should your MP feel unable as a point of principle to put their name to the following, then you should carefully consider whether they really deserve to be your MP at all:

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.

***

We have recently become aware that some MPs have claimed they cannot sign EDM 1624 due to the posts they occupy as either Parliamentary Public Secretaries (a junior Government position) or as members of the Opposition holding a Shadow portfolio. Some background on this issue is provided in this factsheet issued by the House of Commons Information Office. Here’s the relevant extract:

Ministers and whips do not normally sign EDMs. Under the Ministerial Code, Parliamentary Private Secretaries “must not associate themselves with particular groups advocating special policies”, and they do not normally sign EDMs. Neither the Speaker nor Deputy Speakers will sign EDMs. Internal party rules may also affect who can sign early day motions.

What constitutes a “special policy” in this instance is not entirely clear and we will seek to clarify this as soon as possible. What is clear is that there is no Parliamentary rule that prevents Shadow Ministers from signing EDMs; whether there are internal Labour Party rules that may impact on the situation is something our supporters are investigating. Again, we will provide an update here once the situation is clarified.

Thanks to @Gavin_PPUK for the Parliamentary info.

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.