Outrage over the treatment of Bradley Manning has peaked nearly two years after he was first put in federal custody. Now 50 members of European parliament are urging the US to allow the UN’s special rapporteur on torture access to the soldier.
Less than a month before a pre-trial hearing for Bradley Manning is slated to begin, more than dozens of officials from overseas have sent a letter to Washington regarding the treatment imposed on the alleged whistleblower.
While being detained for nearly a year-and-a-half, Manning has been subjected to what watchdogs and attorneys and advocates alike have called cruel and unusual punishment. At times the military vet has been stripped naked of his clothes, held in solitary confinement for almost all hours of the day and monitored incessantly. He has been under the government’s custody since his arrest in May 2010 for his alleged involvement in leaking classified documents to the whistleblowing site WikiLeaks, the brainchild of Julian Assange.
Activists have repeatedly criticized the US for the treatment of Manning, their own citizen and soldier, long asking for the United Nation’s special rapporteur on torture, Juan Méndez, to be allowed access to the man. Now dozens of leaders from across the pond have sent a letter to US President Barack Obama, the US Congress, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Secretary of the Army John McHugh and US Army Chief Raymond T Odierno.
“In order to uphold the rights guaranteed to Bradley Manning under international human rights law and the US constitution, it is imperative that the United Nations special rapporteur be allowed to properly investigate evidence of rights abuses,” reads the letter. “PFC Manning has a right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. People accused of crimes must not be subjected to any form of punishment before being brought to trial.”
“We certainly do not understand why an alleged whistleblower is being threatened with the death penalty, or the possibility of life in prison. We also question whether Bradley Manning’s right to due process has been upheld, as he has now spent over 17 months in pre-trial confinement.”
While the Pentagon might not feel the same way, it seems that as far as the White House is concerned, Manning isn’t in the wrong.
Attorney David E Coombs, a legal representative for 23-year-old Manning, has said that the Obama administration has said the leaked documents in question are of “rather benign nature” and are not “of any real damage to national security.” Coombs filed the documents alleging such in court on Monday.
Coombs adds that a congressional official was told by State Department sources that Manning’s work caused embarrassment but not damage, and Wired.com writes that “One assessment conducted by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) concluded that all of the information allegedly leaked was dated, represented low-level opinions or was already commonly known due to previous public disclosures.”
Despite the assurance that Manning has not caused a threat to national security, the soldier is continuing to be held under strict conditions as he awaits a pre-hearing trial December 16. Mendez has continuously requested access to him, and has been denied every time.
“The defense has repeatedly requested the below discovery in this case, but the government has consistently responded with a blanket denial of the defense request,” says Coombs
Labour MEPs Richard Howitt and Derek Vaughan, Green MEPs Jean Lambert and Keith Taylor and Plaid Cymru MEP Jill Evans are among the dozens who sent the letter to Washington this week.