The US is violating UN laws governing torture investigations by insisting on monitoring conversations with an imprisoned army private, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez said in a press release July 12. Pfc. Bradley Manning is accused of leaking a controversial classified video of a 2007 US helicopter strike in Iraq (“Collateral Murder“) and classified State Department documents on WikiLeaks last year. Manning was detained in pre-trial solitary confinement at Quantico Confinement Facility, and subsequently transferred to the Joint Regional Correctional Facility at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
Mendez argues that the US is obstructing his investigation of Manning’s treatment during detention. Mendez emphasized his need for open conversation with the inmate:
I am assured by the US Government that Mr. Manning’s prison regime and confinement is markedly better than it was when he was in Quantico. However, in addition to obtaining first hand information on my own about his new conditions of confinement, I need to ascertain whether the conditions he 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.
The US military has prohibited unmonitored conversations between Mendez and Manning, who has been detained for the past year.
A US Army panel of experts declared Manning competent to stand trial in April. Manning faces two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) for the transfer of classified information and exceeding his authorized computer access. His prosecution has sparked heated debate between defenders and critics. A petition in support of Manning refers to him as courageous for acting as a whistleblower on government crime and corruption. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has criticized the “Collateral Murder” video, claiming it provides the public a view of warfare “as seen through a soda straw.” He noted that public attention was not drawn to what was discovered by US ground forces following the helicopter gunfire, including AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenade launchers. He also emphaszied the reality of fighting terrorist organizations, which are made up of combatants who do not wear enemy uniforms.
From Jurist, July 12. Used with permission.
See our last post on the torture and detainment scandals.