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Juan Mendez, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture (pictured here at the Human Rights Council in Geneva) requested an unmonitored visit with Manning. Photo by United Nations Information Service - Geneva under the Creative Common license CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

U.S. again denies special rapporteur access to Bradley Manning


The U.S. has again refused to permit the UN Special Rapporteur on torture an unmonitored visit with Private First Class Bradley Manning, the army officer charged with passing on classified military documents to Wikileaks, who has been in detention for a year.

The IRCT remains concerned by this case: we are disturbed that the U.S. continues to ignore its legal obligations under the UN Convention Against Torture to which it is a signatory.

Special Rapporteur Juan Mendez accused the U.S. of impeding his investigation in the Manning case by refusing to allow an unmonitored visit. The U.S. Department of Defense has allowed for a visit with Manning, but informed Mendez that the conversation would be monitored.

“The question of my unfettered access to a detainee goes beyond my request to meet with Mr. Manning – it touches on whether I will be able to conduct private and unmonitored interviews with detainees if I were to conduct a country visit to the United States,” Mendez said.

Manning was held in a Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Virginia for the first eight months of his year-long detention. There, reports emerged that Manning was confined alone for 23 hours a day, and then forced to strip naked at night to sleep in a Velcro-attached ‘smock’.

“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 defense department moved Manning in April to Fort Leavenworth in Kansas.
Mendez has also requested an official visit to Guantanamo Bay, to which the U.S. has yet to respond. Manfred Nowak, Mendez’s predecessor as special rapporteur and current IRCT patron, also applied for an official visit and access to Guantanamo facilities. However, the Bush administration at the time imposed such unacceptable conditions on the visit that Nowak refused.

In order for the U.S. to remain compliant with its obligations under international law, the UN Convention Against Torture, they must provide the torture investigator with unmonitored access to Manning.

Mendez argues that the United States “must seek to set the pace in good practices that enhance the role of human rights mechanisms.” The IRCT agrees and believes the U.S. should comply with the request and uphold transparency in human rights inquiries.

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