U.N. torture investigator slams U.S. for denying him access to Bradley Manning

By Stephen C. Webster
Tuesday, April 12, 2011 10:32 EDT
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A United Nations special rapporteur on torture claims U.S. authorities refused to give him access to Army Private Bradley Manning, 23, the lone soldier accused of leaking secret files to WikiLeaks.

Juan Mendez, the U.N. representative on torture, said he had visited numerous other nations where he’d been allowed unmonitored communications with prisoners. The U.S. Department of Defense on Friday, however, denied his request to visit with Manning, saying he may not speak with the soldier unless a government monitor is present.

The difference between those two is that “official” visits by a U.N. special rapporteur on torture must be unmonitored. In a monitored conversation, anything Manning says could be used against him before a military court.

“[For] my part, a monitored conversation would not comply with the practices that my mandate applies in every country and detention center visited,” Mendez said.

“I am insisting the US government lets me see him without witnesses,” he told The Guardian. “I am asking [the U.S. government] to reconsider.”

The paper noted that the reprimand of U.S. authorities was something usually reserved for dictatorial regimes.

Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) had a similar experience when he requested a meeting with Manning.

“I put in a request to the secretary of defense, who referred me to the secretary of the army, who referred me to the secretary of the navy, who referred me to the secretary of defense, and still not an answer on whether or not I can visit Private Manning,” Rep. Kucinich explained to radio host Scott Horton on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles, during a recent broadcast of Antiwar Radio.

He previously announced he would visit Manning to investigate reports that he had been subjected to abuse while in custody.

Manning attorney David Coombs revealed recently that on many nights, the Army private has been “stripped naked” for as long as seven hours at a time. In the mornings, he was left without clothes and forced to stand at attention.

“No one held prisoner anywhere in America should be tortured,” Rep. Kucinich told Horton. “And the fact that he’s awaiting trial and they’re doing this to him raises serious questions about our criminal justice process. And I’m going to continue my efforts to address the plight of Private Manning and to try to stop this outrageous treatment of him.”

Manning has been held at the prison since July under a maximum security regimen, which leaves him in his cell for 23 hours a day, because authorities say his escape would pose a risk to national security.

Kucinich has promised that there will be “consequences” for how the soldier is being treated. He and hundreds of other legal experts, authors, scholars and former government employees — and even President Obama’s former constitutional law professor at Harvard — have all called the conditions of Manning’s detention an “illegal” punishment for an American not yet convicted of a crime.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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