WASHINGTON -- Human rights activists on Saturday demanded a stop to the inhumane treatment of Bradley Manning, the Army private who has been imprisoned for nine months on charges of giving classified documents to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.
The degrading treatment he has received, they say, “brings back memories of the abuses committed in Abu-Ghraib.”
In a letter to President Barack Obama and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, top human rights organizations Amnesty International and the Center for Constitutional Rights joined with actors, musicians and activists such as Daniel Ellsberg in asking for immediate action to “stop the cruel treatment of an American soldier," who, earlier this month, was forced to sleep naked in a military jail after a commander of the brig in Quantico, Va., ordered his clothes be taken away for a full seven hours.
"It was a situationally-driven event, but to go into detail about it would be inappropriate because it would violate the detainee's privacy," First Lt. Brian Villiard, a spokesman for the Marine Corps base, told the Associated Press at the time.
Manning was also forced to stand outside his cell, in front of the rest of the clothed inmates, until he passed inspection and was given his clothes back.
He "has not even been tried, let alone convicted," wrote The New York Times in an editorial this week. "Yet the military has been treating him abusively, in a way that conjures creepy memories of how the Bush administration used to treat terror suspects. Inexplicably, it appears to have President Obama’s support to do so."
This weekend, activists from Washington to San Francisco and from Berlin to Montreal are holding rallies to protest his abuse.
Read the full letter below.
Dear President Obama and Secretary Gates:
We are writing today to ask for immediate action to address the inhumane and unjustified treatment of PFC Bradley Manning at Quantico Marine Base. Despite the recommendations of three forensic military psychiatrists, the Brig Commander at Quantico refuses to lift the POI (Prevention of Injury) status and change his confinement classification from MAX to Medium Custody In (MDI). As a result, PFC Manning has been kept PFC in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day for the past eight months.
On the evening of March 2, 2011 PFC Manning was stripped of all his clothing by the Quantico Brig and left naked in his cell for the next seven hours. His clothes were returned to him the following morning only after he stood to attention in front of the rest of the clothed inmates, still naked. The same thing occurred the following night and morning.
There can be no conceivable justification for this type of degrading treatment. It brings back memories of the abuses committed in Abu-Ghraib, which blackened the reputation of America's armed forces.
PFC Manning is already being monitored at all times, both by direct observation and by video. No other detainee at the Brig is forced to endure this type of isolation and humiliation.
We, the undersigned, demand an immediate investigation into the conditions of PFC Manning’s detention and urge you to order a stop to the cruel treatment of an American soldier entitled to the same human rights and constitutional protections afforded to all citizens. Every human being deserves to be treated with respect. Every human being deserves due process. PFC Manning is receiving neither.
Jesselyn Radack, Government Accountability Project
Michael Ratner, Center for Constitutional Rights
Vince Warren, Center for Constitutional Rights
Angela Wright, Amnesty International