Disciplined for toothpaste and Vanity Fair? Send a message of support to Chelsea Manning
A tube of expired toothpaste. Caitlyn Jenner’s infamous Vanity Fair magazine cover. Cosmopolitan magazine. Malala Yusafsai’s autobiography. The US Senate Report on Torture. What do all of these things have in common? They have all been used to further curtail Chelsea Manning’s rights this past week.
It’s two years to the day since Chelsea Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for whistleblowing on military abuses. She is still being punished for speaking out.
Disciplined in prison
Officers at Fort Leavenworth military prison in Kansas conducted a search of Chelsea Manning’s cell last week and found the magazines, journals and toothpaste, amongst other items. They were all confiscated by officers and Chelsea faced disciplinary charges as a result.
— Chelsea Manning (@xychelsea) August 14, 2015
The expired toothpaste in her cell led to a charge of ‘medicine misuse’. The books and magazines listed here led to a charge of possessing ‘prohibited property’. She also faced charges of ‘disrespect’ and ‘disorderly conduct’ for allegedly sweeping some food onto the floor.
These charges carried the maximum penalty of indefinite solitary confinement – a punishment that constitutes a human rights abuse, and something we continue to call on the US to do away with (Obama’s recently-announced investigation is a good first step).
Two days before her hearing prison authorities banned her from using the prison’s legal library, hindering her ability to defend herself against these charges.
On Tuesday, Chelsea was found guilty of all four charges against her. Thankfully she won’t face solitary confinement for these charges, but she has been sentenced to 21 days of restricted recreation – she cannot go outside, cannot use the library, and cannot exercise. It could impact on her parole chances in future.
Now these convictions will follow me thru to any parole/clemency hearing forever. Was expecting to be in min custody in Feb, now years added
— Chelsea Manning (@xychelsea) August 18, 2015
Punished for being herself
The literature found in Chelsea’s cell gives us an insight both into who she is as a person, and how prison authorities continue to attack her for being herself.
The May 2015 issue of Cosmopolitan magazine might also be found in the handbags of women all over the US, but it has special significance for Chelsea. It contained an article where, for the first time, Chelsea spoke out about her story and life as a trans woman in prison.
— Abigail Pesta (@AbigailPesta) April 8, 2015
Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair cover has been seen by millions of people around the world. Caitlyn Jenner and Chelsea Manning have both had some of the most high profile gender transitions of recent times; both have stood up for who they are in the face of often toxic transphobia in today’s society.
— Caitlyn Jenner (@Caitlyn_Jenner) June 1, 2015
Chelsea fought seemingly insurmountable odds for the right to start her transition whilst in prison, going to court for the right to change her name, access hormone therapy, and be referred to as female. It is not surprising that Chelsea was keen to read more about Caitlyn Jenner’s own transition and the support that Jenner has had from around the world.
Her copy of Malala’s autobiography shows Chelsea’s keen interest in human rights, while the copy of the 6,000 page US Senate Report on Torture (a bit of light reading there) shows that she remains dedicated to exposing and seeking justice for human rights abuses committed by her government in recent wars.
Confined to solitary in the past for exposing human rights abuses
Chelsea was herself submitted to human rights abuses by the US state following her exposing human rights abuses. Her experiences of cruel and inhumane treatment at the hand of the US authorities are another reason for Chealsea to have a keen interest in the infamous Senate Report on Torture.
After her arrest and initial detention in Iraq in 2010, Chelsea was flown from her military base in Iraq to a US military detention centre in Kuwait, before being transferred to the US. Going against the repeated recommendations of three forensic military psychiatrists, military authorities classified Chelsea as a maximum security detainee and she was treated with extreme conditions of detention.
She was confined for 23 hours a day in a cell measuring 6.7 square metres, with no window to the outside world. She had just a bed, toilet and sink - no personal possessions allowed, not even in-date toothpaste! - and no contact with other detainees: meals were taken in her cell, alone. Exercise too, was alone, for just one hour a day. All visits, including those with her family or lawyer, took place in a non-contact setting during which Chelsea was shackled at her wrists and ankles.
In solitary, Chelsea was monitored constantly; guards checked on her every five minutes. She was banned from sleeping in the day, and when she was allowed to sleep at night she wasn't allowed sheets, a separate pillow, or to sleep in anything other than boxer shorts - which too were later taken away from her.
The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture described the conditions Chelsea endured during this time as cruel and inhumane. And the risk of being subjected once more to the torture of solitary confinement was very real for Chelsea this week. Thankfully, although she was found guilty at her hearing, Chelsea was not sentenced to the maximum penalty.
And yet, now that Chelsea is allowed personal possessions in detention, and can express (within limits) her gender identity, she appears to have been singled out for it. For the next three weeks she'll be forbidden from going outside or exercising, among other things.
Show Chelsea she's not, and will never be, alone. Write her a note or a tweet below. We know your messages mean a lot to Chelsea.
All of your love and support this past week has been truly overwhelming. Thank you so very very much =)
— Chelsea Manning (@xychelsea) August 19, 2015
Thank you to the 400 of you who sent a message to Chelsea, two years on from her imprisonment. We have passed your messages to Chelsea, who is grateful for your support.
You can still send a message of support to Chelsea on Twitter using the buttons below.
Chelsea's twitter account is managed by her agent, who will be able to relay your messages to Chelsea in prison.
Feel free to write your own message, or click the buttons below to send one of the following messages.
Sending strength to you, @xychelsea. Thanks for speaking out. I stand with you and call on @POTUS to release you.
I stand with you, @xychelsea. I am thinking of you & calling on @POTUS to release you.
Thank you for speaking out for human rights, @xychelsea. #whistleblowers should be protected, @POTUS.
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.