New details reveal further violations of international standards in Bradley Manning’s treatment
As Bradley Manning’s lawyer David Coombs reported in a blog post on Friday, a three-star Marine Corps general provided the orders to hold the Wikileaks suspect as a maximum-custody detainee under prevention-of-injury watch (POI), leaving Manning isolated, mistreated by his guards and routinely denied his basic rights under the U.S. Constitution and international law.
While his prolonged pre-trial confinement (over 800 days, so far) has been widely criticized as a violation of the Constitution’s guarantee of a “speedy trial” and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights’ guarantee of being “brought promptly before a judge” and being granted a “trial within a reasonable time or to release,” Coombs’ new details reveal a number of other serious breaches of international norms.
Coombs described the treatment as a “flagrant violation” of Manning’s right to not be punished prior to trial and has filed a motion asking for the charges against Manning to be dismissed on these grounds.
In its motion to dismiss, “the Defense argues that a decision had been made early on at Quantico to keep PFC Manning in MAX Custody and in Prevention of Injury (POI) status — in effect, the functional equivalent of solitary confinement,” Coombs wrote on his blog.
Besides being held in solitary confinement for 11 months, Manning was denied meaningful exercise, social interaction, sunlight, and on a number of occasions he was forced to stay completely naked.
As Coombs chronicles on his blog:
PFC Manning was awoken at 0500 hours and required to remain awake in his cell from 0500 to 2200 hours.
PFC Manning was not permitted to lie down on his rack during the duty day. Nor was PFC Manning permitted to lean his back against the cell wall; he had to sit upright on his rack without any back support.
Whenever PFC Manning was moved outside his cell, the entire facility was locked down.
Whenever PFC Manning was moved outside his cell, he was shackled with metal hand and leg restraints and accompanied by at least two guards.
From 29 July 2010 to 10 December 2010, PFC Manning was permitted only 20 minutes of “sunshine call.” Aside from a 3-5 minute shower, this would be the only time PFC Manning would regularly spend outside his cell. During this sunshine call, he would be brought to a small concrete yard, about half to a third of the size of a basketball court. PFC Manning would be permitted to walk around the yard in hand and leg shackles, while being accompanied by a Brig guard at his immediate side (the guard would have his hand on PFC Manning’s back). Two to three other guards would also be present observing PFC Manning. PFC Manning would usually walk in figure-eights or some other pattern. He was not permitted to sit down or stay stationary. …
From 10 December 2010 onward, PFC Manning was permitted a one hour recreation call. At this point, the Brig authorized the removal of his hand and leg shackles and PFC Manning was no longer required to be accompanied by a Brig guard at his immediate side. Although PFC Manning was technically “permitted” to use exercise equipment at the gym, most of this equipment was unplugged or broken down. In addition, depending on the guards, they would not permit him to use certain types of equipment (e.g. the chin up bar). So as to avoid any problems with the guards, PFC Manning would usually walk around the room as he had during his sunshine calls. Three or four guards would be monitoring PFC Manning during his recreation call. …
PFC Manning was not permitted any work duty.
A number of these restrictions violated Manning’s rights as a prisoner guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.
Manning’s denial of work and exercise opportunities, for example, was a clear breach of the Standard Minimum Rules, which state that “An untried prisoner shall always be offered opportunity to work, but shall not be required to work. If he chooses to work, he shall be paid for it.” Further, “Every prisoner who is not employed in outdoor work shall have at least one hour of suitable exercise in the open air daily if the weather permits.”
The shackles that Manning was forced to wear while out of his cell, if not necessary for safety purposes, were also likely out of step with the Standard Minimum Rules, which state: “Instruments of restraint, such as handcuffs, chains, irons and strait-jackets, shall never be applied as a punishment.”
Manning’s forced nudity, besides being a generally cruel and unusual humiliation technique, clearly breached the letter and spirit of Standard Minimum Rules’ stipulation that “An untried prisoner shall be allowed to wear his own clothing if it is clean and suitable.”
The length of Manning’s pre-trial confinement is another area of concern, with his time in detention far exceeding international standards.
The fact that Manning has been awaiting trial in prison for more than two years is a grave breach of his rights under the ICCPR, to which the United States has subscribed. The Human Rights Committee of the United Nations has held that confinement of more than six months is incompatible with article 9 (3) of the ICCPR, which states:
Anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release. It shall not be the general rule that persons awaiting trial shall be detained in custody, but release may be subject to guarantees to appear for trial, at any other stage of the judicial proceedings, and, should occasion arise, for execution of the judgement.
In providing practical guidelines for the use of pre-trial confinement, the UN’s Handbook of International Standards relating to Pre-Trial Detention recommends that governments establish a maximum period of time during which a person may be detained without trial, and if a prisoner’s detention exceeds that amount of time, the he or she shall be released. The Handbook notes, however, that any guideline on maximum pre-trial detention must abide by international standards.
With these concerns in mind, the treatment that Manning has endured has come under intense criticism.
In an open letter to President Obama, members of Congress and Pentagon officials last November, members of the European Parliament expressed concern that “Manning has been subjected to prolonged solitary confinement and other abusive treatment tantamount to torture.”
Manning’s solitary confinement regime “constitute[d] at a minimum cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in violation of article 16 of the convention against torture,” according to Juan Mendez, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture. “If the effects in regards to pain and suffering inflicted on Manning were more severe, they could constitute torture,” he told the Guardian earlier this year.
Manning’s defense team has requested that Mendez be allowed to testify at Manning’s next round of hearings scheduled for later this month, but the presiding judge has denied the request. Army Col. Denise Lind told Manning’s attorneys that Mendez would be barred from presenting testimony since he had not actually met with Manning while under the solitary confinement regime.
Mendez had attempted to meet with Manning in private while he was held in solitary confinement, of course, but the U.S. authorities denied him the opportunity.
The various prevarications by the United States are leading some to question whether the Army private will be able to receive anything resembling a fair trial.
This is especially the case since both President Obama and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey have declared publicly, prior to trial, that Manning “broke the law.”
Their statements have likely prejudiced the proceedings with Unlawful Command Influence under article 17 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and are in violation of the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, which state: “Unconvicted prisoners are presumed to be innocent and shall be treated as such.”
To sign a petition to President Obama demanding that the charges against Pfc. Bradley Manning be dropped, click here.