Chelsea Manning is currently being held in prison since May 16 for refusing to testify to a grand jury against WikiLeaks and her treatment amounts to torture, according to the UN’s special rapporteur on torture.
In the missive, [Nils] Melzer says Manning is being subjected to “an open-ended, progressively severe measure of coercion fulfilling all the constitutive elements of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”.
Manning, who was detained on 16 May after refusing to testify before a grand jury, is currently being held at the Alexandria detention center in Virginia until she agrees to give evidence or until the grand jury’s term expires in November next year. She also faces fines currently running at $1,000 a day.
In the letter, Melzer writes: “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.”
Warning that “victims of prolonged coercive confinement have demonstrated post-traumatic symptoms and other severe and persistent mental and physical health consequences”, Melzer said Manning’s detention “is not a lawful sanction but an open-ended, progressively severe coercive measure amounting to torture & should be discontinued & abolished without delay”.
Mannings’ lawyers have argued that her detention is “for refusing to comply with a grand jury is pointless, punitive, and cruel” and warned that she is not likely to change her mind.
The grand jury system used in the US puts enormous power in the hands of prosecutors. Manning was already subjected to the most horrendous abuse and torture prior to and after her earlier trial and sentencing in 2011. You could not blame her for not wanting to have to repeat that experience and cooperating with the grand jury just to avoid it. But that is not how she rolls. I am constantly amazed at her willingness to suffer duress at the hands of the US government because of her unwillingness to compromise her principles.