UN accuses US of cruelty to suspected WikiLeaks source


THE UN special rapporteur on torture has formally accused the US government of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of Bradley Manning, the US soldier who was held in solitary confinement for almost a year on suspicion of being the WikiLeaks source.

Juan Mendez has completed a 14-month inquiry into Pte Manning’s treatment since his arrest at a US military base in 2010. He concludes the US military was at least culpable of cruel and inhumane treatment in keeping Pte Manning locked up alone for 23 hours a day over an 11-month period in conditions that he also found might have constituted torture.

“The special rapporteur concludes 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,” Mr Mendez writes.

The findings are published as an addendum to the special rapporteur’s report to the UN general assembly on the promotion and protection of human rights. They are likely to reignite criticism of the US government’s harsh treatment of Pte Manning ahead of his court martial later this year.

Pte Manning (24) was arrested on May 29th, 2010, at a base near Baghdad, where he was working as an intelligence analyst. He has been charged with 22 counts, including aiding the enemy, related to the leaking of a massive trove of state secrets to whistleblowing website WikiLeaks.

Mr Mendez, who runs the UN office that investigates incidents of alleged torture around the world, told the Guardian: “I conclude that 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.”

Pte Manning was initially held at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, and then transferred in July 2010 to the Marine corps base at Quantico in Virginia. He was held there for eight months in conditions that aroused condemnation, including being held in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day and being made to strip naked at night.

In his opening letter to the US government on December 30th, 2010, Mr Mendez said the prolonged isolated confinement was believed to have been imposed “in an effort to coerce him into ‘co-operation’ with the authorities, allegedly for the purpose of persuading him to implicate others”.

The US department of justice is conducting a grand jury in Virginia that is exploring the possibility of prosecuting WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

The US mission to the UN in Geneva responded to Mr Mendez’s letter on January 27th, 2011. It said the US government “is committed to protecting human rights in our country and abroad, and we value the work of the special rapporteur”. – ( Guardianservice)