[JURIST] The US is violating UN laws governing torture investigations [press release] by insisting on monitoring conversations with an imprisoned army private, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez said Tuesday. Pfc. Bradley Manning [advocacy website; JURIST news archive] is accused of leaking a controversial classified video [YouTube video] of a 2007 US helicopter strike in Iraq and classified State Department [official website] documents on Wikileaks [website] last year. Manning was detained in pre-trial solitary confinement at Quantico Confinement Facility [official website], and subsequently transferred [DOJ press release] to the Joint Regional Correctional Facility [DOJ report, PDF] at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Mendez argues that the US is obstructing his investigation [AP report] of Manning’s treatment during detention. Mendez emphasized his need for open conversation with the inmate:
I am assured by the US Government that Mr. Manning’s prison regime and confinement is markedly better than it was when he was in Quantico. However, in addition to obtaining first hand information on my own about his new conditions of confinement, I need to ascertain whether the conditions he was subjected to for several months in Quantico amounted to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. For that, it is imperative that I talk to Mr. Manning under conditions where I can be assured that he is being absolutely candid.
The US military has prohibited unmonitored conversations between Mendez and Manning, who has been detained for the past year.
A US Army [official website] panel of experts declared Manning competent to stand trial [JURIST report] in April. Manning faces two charges [charge sheet, PDF; JURIST report] under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) [text] for the transfer of classified information and exceeding his authorized computer access. His prosecution has sparked heated debate between defenders and critics. Those who support Manning’s actions refer to him as courageous for acting as a whistleblower [advocacy petition] against government crime and corruption. He has been compared to famous US whistleblowers such as Frank Serpico and Daniel Ellsberg [personal websites], who leaked information regarding corruption in the New York Police Department and the Pentagon, respectively. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates [official profile] has criticized the video [WSJ report], claiming it provides the public a view of warfare “as seen through a soda straw.” He noted that public attention was not drawn to what was discovered by US ground forces following the helicopter gunfire, including AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenade launchers. He also defended the reality of fighting terrorist organizations, which is made up of combatants who do not wear enemy uniforms.