Anyone who follows me on Twitter will know that I have been taking a particular interest in the case of Bradley Manning, the young Welsh-American soldier accused of whistleblowing and releasing classified military information, including the Wikileaks files. This afternoon Peer and I attended a demonstration outside the US embassy in Grosvenor Square to protest against his treatment, and this evening I have written to my local MP, Andy Slaughter, to ask him to sign early day motion 1624, tabled by Bradley’s old MP, Ann Clwyd, which calls on the government to raise Bradley’s case with the US administration.
Here is the text of my letter:
Dear Mr Slaughter,
I am writing as a constituent to ask you to sign early day motion 1624, tabled by Ann Clwyd, on the treatment of Bradley Manning. Bradley is being held in conditions which constitute torture and, as a UK citizen by virtue of his mother’s nationality, is entitled to British consular support. Furthermore, as Shadow Justice Minister, his case should be of particular interest to you, as it is in breach of both international law and the fundamental principles of justice.
Private First Class Bradley Manning is being held in military custody at Quantico Marine Base in the US on suspicion of whistle-blowing and releasing classified military documents. He is being kept under ‘prevention of injury’ conditions, which place him in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day in his cell, while for the other hour he is transferred to another room where he can pace around in shackles for his daily ‘exercise’. During his confinement, he is interrupted by gaolers every five minutes, and required to respond verbally to confirm that he is awake; at night he has access to minimal bedding, and has recently been required to sleep naked, and to present himself naked in the morning. At times Bradley has been placed under suicide watch, although the brig psychiatrist himself has assessed him as being at low risk of suicide; the only explanation for this situation is that this treatment is punitive. Bradley needs glasses to read, and is frequently denied access to them, as well as to radio and television, meaning that he has very limited access to external stimuli during his incarceration. This treatment has been widely criticised, amongst others by P J Crowley, the former adviser to Hillary Clinton, who described his treatment as ‘ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid’; indeed, the very conditions that are supposed to ‘prevent injury’ to Bradley, are likely to weaken his mental state and put him at further risk.
It is clear that the treatment of Bradley Manning constitutes torture or cruel and degrading treatment, contrary to the UN Convention against Torture, and pressure must be put on the US government to ensure that this treatment ceases, and that Bradley is held in humane conditions.
Secondly, this treatment constitutes pre-trial punishment, as Bradley has not yet stood trial for any of his alleged actions, nor has a date been set for him to stand trial. As Shadow Justice Minister you will be aware of the importance of due judicial process, and should be deeply concerned at this breach of such process.
Thirdly, Bradley Manning holds dual citizenship and the UK has a responsibility to ensure he has appropriate consular support. His mother is Welsh, and he lived and went to school in Haverfordwest during his teenage years. Whilst Bradley returned to the United States at the age of 17, he still has family in Wales, and it is the local MP, your colleague Ann Clwyd, who has tabled this early day motion.
I urge you to sign this early day motion, to demonstrate that the UK values the rights of its citizens and stands up for human rights around the world. Whatever your personal position on the charges brought against Bradley, I am sure you will agree that his torture and pre-trial punishment are unacceptable, and that we in the UK have a particular responsibility to stand up for his interests. Please support our calls for justice by signing this early day motion at the first opportunity, and by urging your colleagues in the house to do likewise.
Please write to your MP as well. It is a small matter for them to sign this motion, but we in the UK are in a unique position to help improve the conditions of this heroic young man.