The UN special rapporteur on torture has formally accused the US government of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment towards 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 investigation into the treatment of Manning since the soldier’s arrest at a US military base in May 2010. He concludes that the US military was at least culpable of cruel and inhumane treatment in keeping 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,” Mendez writes.
The findings of cruel and inhuman treatment 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 Manning ahead of his court martial later this year.
Manning, 24, was arrested on May 29 2010 at the Forward Operating Base Hammer outside Baghdad, where he was working as an intelligence analyst. Manning has been charged with 22 counts, including aiding the enemy, relating to the leaking a massive trove of state secrets to the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks.
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.”
Manning was initially held for almost three months 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 another eight months in conditions that aroused widespread 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 30 2010, Mendez said that the prolonged period of isolated confinment was believed to have been imposed “in an effort to coerce him into ‘cooperation’ with the authorities, allegedly for the purpose of persuading him to implicate others.”
It is known that the US department of justice is conducting a grand jury in Virginia exploring the possibility of bringing charges against Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder.