24 Jan 2011

WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning treatment ‘inhumane’

The treatment of WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning is branded inhumane by human rights groups. Campaigners tell Channel 4 News US custody conditions are “punitive”.

Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of handing classified information to WikiLeaks, was arrested in May 2010.

He is alleged to have illegally downloaded thousands of classified cables.

It is claimed the 23-year old has been held in a solitary cell for 23 hours a day at the Marine Corps Brig, Quantico, Virginia, and on 18 January he was categorised as a suicide risk.

Manning’s lawyer, David Coombs, claims he was stripped of all clothing, with the exception of his underwear, and his prescription glasses were taken away.

He was forced to sit in “essential blindness” apart from when he was reading or given television privileges.

These are conditions that would be punitive in the case of any prisoner but they’re particularly disturbing in the case of an untried detainee who should be presumed as innocent. Amnesty International

The suicide risk restrictions were lifted on 20 January, but writing on his website David Coombs said conditions were still tough: “Like suicide risk, he is held in solitary confinement. For 23 hours per day, he will sit in his cell.”

He continued: “The guards will check on him every five minutes by asking him if he is okay. (Bradley) Manning will be required to respond in some affirmative manner.

“At night, if the guards cannot see him clearly, because he has a blanket over his head or is curled up towards the wall, they will wake him in order to ensure that he is okay.”

Manning’s lawyer also said that strict exercise restrictions were being imposed: “If he attempts to do push-ups, sit-ups, or any other form of exercise he will be forced to stop.

“He will receive one hour of exercise outside of his cell daily. The guards will take him to an empty room and allow him to walk. He will usually just walk in figure eights around the room until his hour is complete.

“When he goes to sleep, he will be required to strip down to his underwear and surrender his clothing to the guards.”

Bradley Manning is being held in inhumane conditions according to campaigners

‘Inhumane treatment’

Human rights groups in the UK are now calling for the conditions Bradley Manning are held in be relaxed.

He is currently classed as a “maximum custody” detainee as well as a Prevention of Injury (POI) prisoner.

The POI is imposed as he is deemed to be a risk to himself.

Amnesty International has written to US Defence Secretary Robert Gates calling for the restrictions to be eased.

The charity’s Angela Wright told Channel 4 News the US Government must act: “These are conditions that would be punitive in the case of any prisoner but they’re particularly disturbing in the case of an untried detainee who should be presumed as innocent and treated accordingly.

“We consider these conditions overall to be unnecessarily punitive and amount to cruel treatment.”

She continued: “We’re also concerned that no reasons have been given for confining him to the very high maximum custody status.

“In this case he can simply be held indefinitely in these conditions.”

There are also concerns that Bradley Manning’s treatment may hamper his ability to defend himself.

Angela Wright said: “There’s considerable evidence that confinement to a small space can harm a person’s psychological health.

“That in turn could have an impact on their ability to assist in their defence which could impact on their right to a fair trial.”

Channel 4 News has asked the US authorities for a statement regarding the conditions in which Bradley Manning is being held but has had no response.