31 Dec, 2019
Chelsea Manning is being subjected to cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment, constituting torture by the US government over her refusal to testify against whistleblower website WikiLeaks, a top United Nations official has said.
UN special rapporteur on torture Nils Melzer accused the government of torturing Manning in a November letter, which was just released on Tuesday. In the letter, Melzer wrote that Manning is suffering “an open-ended, progressively severe measure of coercion” which fulfils “all the constitutive elements of torture.”
Manning, a former Army intelligence analyst, was arrested on May 16 after she refused to testify against WikiLeaks before a grand jury. She is still being detained at the Alexandria Detention Center in Virginia and is facing fines of $1,000 a day.
Just out: My official letter to #USGovt of 1 Nov 2019 explaining why continued detention of @xychelsea is not a lawful sanction but an open-ended, progressively severe coercive measure amounting to torture & should be discontinued & abolished without delay https://t.co/uhqKoFSQSq pic.twitter.com/J662CtVAA7
— Nils Melzer (@NilsMelzer) December 31, 2019
“The practise of coercive deprivation of liberty for civil contempt … involves the intentional infliction of progressively severe mental and emotional suffering for the purposes of coercion and intimidation at the order of judicial authorities,” Melzer wrote.
The torture expert added that victims of this kind of prolonged coercive confinement have demonstrated “post-traumatic symptoms and other severe and persistent mental and physical health consequences.”
Manning’s detention is a “severe coercive measure amounting to torture & should be discontinued & abolished without delay,” he wrote. He said coercive detention appears also to be “incompatible with the international human rights obligations” of the US under various international conventions.
Manning’s own lawyers have insisted that she is “fully committed to her principles” and unlikely to change her mind about testifying against WikiLeaks, calling her detention “pointless” and “cruel.”
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is being held at London’s maximum security Belmarsh Prison awaiting a US extradition hearing, has been charged with conspiracy to commit computer intrusion with Manning to break into Ministry of Defense computers and gain access to US state secrets. In 2010, WikiLeaks released the infamous ‘Collateral Murder’ footage, showing an indiscriminate US attack in Baghdad in 2007 which killed 12 people, including two Reuters journalists.
Prosecutors are attempting to force Manning to testify in Assange’s trial if he is indeed extradited to the US.
Manning was already sentenced to 35 years in a military prison in 2011. She served seven of those years, before her sentence was commuted by Barack Obama in 2017.