Juan Mendez, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, has formally accused the US government of "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment" towards one of its soldiers, PFC Bradley Manning.
Manning was held in solitary confinement for the best part of twelve months on suspicion of leaking state secrets to the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks.
In the conclusion of Mendez’s report into Manning’s treatment by the US following his arrest in May 2010, Mendez writes that “imposing seriously punitive conditions of detention on someone who has not been found guilty of any crime is a violation of his right to physical and psychological integrity as well as of his presumption of innocence”.
According to the Guardian newspaper, the Special Rapporteur’s findings of Manning’s treatment appear in an addendum to the report to the UN General Assembly on the promotion and protection of human rights.
Speaking to the paper, Mendez confirmed that, in his view, “the 11 months under conditions of solitary confinement (regardless of the name given to his regime by the prison authorities) constitutes at a minimum cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in violation of article 16 of the convention against torture. If the effects in regards to pain and suffering inflicted on Manning were more severe, they could constitute torture.”
The publication of the UN report means that – as the blogger Fagburn points out – the United States has been “formally accused [of] violating the United Nations’ Torture Charter”.
Manning was arrested nearly two years ago – at the Forward Operating Base Hammer, near Baghdad, on 29 May 2010.
Last month, Digital Journalreported that Manning would face a full military court martial after being “accused of leaking sensitive and embarrassing documents related to United States government activities. In a statement made by Major General Michael Linnington, the General Court-Martial Convening Authority, on 3 February, Linnington said that “US military officials [had] formally referred all charges against Manning […] to a full court martial”.
The 22 counts that the 24-year-old soldier has been charged with include aiding the enemy by leaking of a massive trove of US state secrets to WikiLeaks.
At that time, Jeff Paterson of the Bradley Manning Support Network called on the Obama administration to give “an honest explanation for their extraordinary retaliation against Bradley Manning [and that] President Obama and Secretary Clinton need to produce sworn depositions under conditions where they are required to tell the truth about Bradley Manning.”
Following his arrest, Manning had first been held for almost three months in Kuwait, at Camp Arifjan, before being transferred to the Quantico Marine Corps base in Virginia. As reported in April 2011, he was held in Quantico for eight months “in conditions that aroused widespread condemnation, including being held in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day and being made to strip naked at night”.
On 20 April 2011, Manning was moved to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and is now being held at a facility in Virginia. His next pre-trial hearing is due to take place on Thursday, 15 March.