U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, accused of aiding the enemy by passing reams of classified military documents to WikiLeaks, may have been treated inhumanely by the U.S. military since his arrest in 2010, according to a report from the United Nations' top official on torture.
The findings are the result of a 14-month long probe conducted by U.N. special rapporteur Juan Mendez and released late last month. They could spark a debate about Manning's case as it winds toward a court-martial later this year. The latest hearing in Manning's case is scheduled for later this week, at which motions made when Manning was charged on February 23 will be heard.
In his February 29 report, Mendez wrote that he appealed to the United States to get an unmonitored interview with Manning but was unsuccessful. He told the British newspaper The Guardian that he cannot give a definitive report on Manning's treatment because he cannot visit with the soldier alone.
The soldier has been held in military detention since his arrest in May 2010. He was then an Army intelligence analyst at Forward Operating Base Hammer outside Baghdad where, prosecutors say, he put software on secure computers that allowed him to download classified material and burn it to a compact disc.
Manning is facing 22 charges, including aiding the enemy, which could send him to prison for life.
Mendez wrote that Manning was kept alone in a cell for 23 hours a day for nearly one year at the Marine Corps base at Quantico, Virginia, where he was kept before his transfer to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, in April 2011. The solitary confinement ended when Manning was transferred to Leavenworth, Mendez wrote.
"The Special Rapporteur concludes that imposing seriously punitive conditions of detention on someone who has not been found guilty of any crime is a violation of his right to physical and psychological integrity as well as of his presumption of innocence," the report said.
Mendez stressed that "solitary confinement is a harsh measure which may cause serious psychological and physiological adverse effects on individuals regardless of their specific conditions." Depending on the circumstances of Manning's case, the decision to hold Manning in this manner might have breached an international convention against torture.