The US authorities must put an end to the harsh pre-trial detention conditions of Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of leaking information to WikiLeaks, Amnesty International said today, as it sent letters to US President Barack Obama and Secretary of Defence Robert Gates.
Amnesty is calling for measures to ensure that the army private is no longer held in 23-hour solitary confinement and subjected to other unreasonable restrictions.
Amnesty first raised its concerns about the conditions of Bradley Manning's detention in a letter to Gates on 19 January. Two months later the organisation has yet to receive a reply and Private Manning's conditions have not improved. Amnesty has also launched an online campaign (see: http://amn.st/hxuFc8
), with its supporters pressing the US authorities to end the harsh treatment of detained soldier.
Amnesty International Americas Director Susan Lee said:
"Bradley Manning is being held in unnecessarily harsh conditions that are inconsistent with his status as an untried prisoner.
"We urge the US authorities to review Bradley Manning's situation. Under international standards, prisoners who have not yet stood trial should be treated in accordance with their right to the presumption of innocence.
"His requests to have his custody assignment downgraded have been denied despite his reportedly presenting no problems to staff or inmates and having a clear disciplinary record while in custody."
Bradley Manning, 23, was arrested in May 2010 in Iraq and charged with transferring classified data onto his personal computer and passing that data to an unauthorised third party.
Since July he has been confined for 23 hours a day to a small cell, with no personal possessions and with limited access to writing and reading materials. In March 2011 an additional 22 charges were laid against him, including "aiding the enemy".
All visits, including those with his family or lawyer, take place in a non-contact setting. Amnesty has been told he is shackled at the wrists and legs during these visits. Manning continues to be subject to a Prevention of Injury (POI) classification which means he is deprived of sheets and a separate pillow and must be checked every five minutes during the day. He is also prevented from exercising in his cell and rarely receives any outdoor exercise, contrary to United Nations rules for the treatment of prisoners.
Prolonged isolation and confinement to a small cell, with lack of adequate exercise and other restrictions, can cause severe psychological impairment, including depression and anxiety.
Earlier this month Manning was forced to remove all clothing and to sleep naked for several consecutive days. This treatment followed shortly after he made a remark to a custody officer when he was told that he would remain under POI status (his remark was to the effect that, had he wanted to commit suicide, he could have done so using the elastic waistband of his undershorts). He has described being required to stand to attention naked and cold at his cell door each morning before his clothes were returned to him.
Susan Lee added:
"Bradley Manning is the only prisoner currently at the Quantico Marine Corps Base known to have been confined to a cell under Maximum
Custody/POI status for as long as eight months.
"Our concerns regarding his treatment are further heightened by the fact that military psychiatrists have repeatedly recommended that Bradley Manning be removed from POI status."