The British government is raising objections to the U.S. State Department over the treatment of Pfc. Bradley Manning. An American citizen by birth, Manning’s supporters in the UK have highlighted his rights as a British national due to the fact that his mother was born in Wales, which, by British law, grants him UK citizenship.
Manning, an Iraq War veteran, is accused of providing thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks, some of which provide incontrovertible evidence of U.S. violations of international law, including spying on UN officials in violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, as well as the commission of brazen war crimes in Iraq, as revealed in the “Collateral Murder” video.
Britain’s Foreign Office said that it would instruct officials at the British Embassy in Washington to reiterate their concerns and the UK government confirmed Manning’s British citizenship.
Labour MP Ann Clwyd in a half-hour speech on the floor of the British House of Commons on Monday night, de-emphasized the significance of Manning’s dual citizenship, which she called a a “red herring.” Instead, she highlighted the basic human rights issue of Manning being mistreated and punished before a trial has even been held.
“I’m not raising Bradley Manning’s case because he is a British national,” she said, “but because I believe his treatment is cruel and unnecessary, and because we should be saying so.”
Manning’s case is important, Clwyd said, because of the message it sends out to the rest of the world about what kind of treatment the U.S. government thinks is acceptable for imprisoned people throughout the world.
[This case] matters in places where human rights are not nearly so well observed. People will pay attention in China and in Russia – and in Libya, where we want to be on the side of those fighting for freedom from state repression. And most of all in Afghanistan: it matters to those UK and US service personnel fighting in Afghanistan what kind of image Britain and the US have in the world.
Clwyd pointed to her experience as special envoy to Iraq on human rights, a role she served in for seven years:
It is my view that some of the greatest damage was caused to British and American efforts in Iraq when the stories of prisoner abuse emerged… It undermined our moral authority when we needed to explain that we were fighting for a better future for Iraq. The United States – and the UK, in the way we respond to actions of the US – needs to preserve that moral authority if we are to have a positive impact on the world and lead by example.
Manning, 23, is detained at the brig at Quantico Marine Corps Base. He has been held in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day and is forced to surrender his clothing each night, going on a year now. No trial date has been set.
Manning’s attorney has written on his blog that Manning does not hold a British passport or consider himself British.
“It is clear that he neither is asking for our help, nor considering himself to be British,” British Foreign Office minister Henry Bellingham told parliamentarians in Monday’s parliamentary debate. Nevertheless, under British law, Manning is “British by descent,” he noted.
“All people who are detained in custody deserve to be treated in detention according to the highest international standards, and we certainly expect nothing else, nothing less, from the United States,” Bellingham said.
Nevertheless, his status as a Brit — never mind his United States citizenship — provides him certain rights under international law, which have been systematically abrogated by the U.S. military in his continued maltreatment.
As Amnesty International has said, his treatment is a violation of international law. In January, Amnesty sent a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, calling Manning’s detention “unnecessarily harsh and punitive” and in “breach the USA’s obligations under international standards and treaties.” According to Amnesty:
The conditions under which PFC Manning is held appear to breach the USA’s obligations under international standards and treaties, including Article 10 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which the USA ratified in 1992 and which states that “all persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person”. The UN Human Rights Committee, the ICCPR monitoring body, has noted in its General Comment on Article 10 that persons deprived of their liberty may not be “subjected to any hardship or constraint other than that resulting from the deprivation of liberty; respect for the dignity of such persons must be guaranteed under the same conditions as for that of free persons …”.
We are now seeing the full wrath of the U.S. government against its own citizens who reveal unwelcome facts about its government’s nefarious activities. It’s not pretty…