Date: 13 June 2013 14:12:29 BST
Subject: Re; Bradley Manning
Thank you for your call just now regarding Amnesty International and the case of Bradley Manning.
On behalf of Amnesty International UK please accept my sincere apologies that you’ve had to contact us more than once to receive an answer to your query; this is unacceptable and does not meet the
standards we expect of ourselves. I can confirm that I have logged your complaint, and your comments, as part of our feedback procedure so they will be read by senior staff and by the Board of Amnesty
International UK. If you have any further comments you would like to add after you’ve read this email, or any query about our policies and work, please don’t hesitate to contact us via email or call on
020 7033 1777.
First of all, regarding your query if there is an observer from our organisation at his trial, I can confirm that we do. We previously sent an observer to witness the pre-trial hearings and an observers continues
to observe key portions of the trial.
We have closely monitored Bradley Manning’s case throughout the legal process. From our calls on the US Government to alleviate the harsh, pre-trial conditions of his captivity, to our assertion that his
move to another prison in Kansas and the conditions there will be closely monitored by our organisation. We understand that his conditions improved considerably after he was transferred to a medium
security military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, in late April 2011. According to his lawyer, at Fort Leavenworth he has his own cell, furnished with a bed, table and chair, and access to a common area
where he can watch TV, talk to other detainees, shower and exercise. He is also allowed group outdoor recreation. He can receive visitors who are on his authorised visitation list, and can receive mail from
anyone. We believe that sustained public pressure, from Amnesty International and others, for the US government to treat Bradley Manning humanely, contributed to this. Most recently, on the 3rd of June, we
released a press statement declaring that Bradley Manning should be allowed to make a ‘Public Interest’ defence argument. You can read this statement here.
Deciding to designate someone a POC is a decision made by our teams of regional experts who make decisions based on individual cases, using policy outlined and agreed upon by Amnesty International’s law and policy professionals. There are many factors Amnesty International takes into account when someone is designated a POC. Our definition of a Prisoner of Conscience is;
A person imprisoned or otherwise physically restricted because of their political, religious or other conscientiously held beliefs, ethnic origin, sex, colour, language, national or social origin, economic status, birth, sexual orientation or other status – who has not used violence or advocated violence or hatred.
In Bradley Manning’s case we have considered the extensive scope and nature of the documents he released and have not, currently, designated him as a Prisoner of Conscience. We don’t believe that the prosecution is, as of now, violation his right to freedom of expression. This would be the case If Bradley Manning had only disclosed information relating to potential human rights or humanitarian law violations, his prosecution would be an infringement of the right to freedom of expression. But he made disclosures that went beyond just exposing potential violations. And in general, a government can place valid restrictions on employees to prevent unauthorised disclosure of confidential information.
If a government sought to punish a person for the act of releasing in a responsible manner and for reasons of conscience, information that he or she reasonably believed to be evidence of human rights violations that the government was attempting to keep secret, this would typically be a basis for Amnesty International to designate the person a POC.
We are not in a position to reach such a conclusion in respect of the charges in Bradley Manning’s case because of the scope and nature of the information he disclosed. That said, we will be looking particularly closely at any details that emerge relating to the disclosure of potential human rights abuses, including the release of the classified video of the 2007 Baghdad Apache helicopter attack.
Regarding the Apache helicopter attack: This charge relates to the leaking of a classified military video of the 2007 Baghdad Apache helicopter attack in which the US military killed 12 people, including a journalist with photo equipment; 2 children who were passengers in a van which arrived to rescue the injured were also wounded in the attack. The US army concluded shortly after the incident that the soldiers had acted appropriately in firing on a group they believed to be armed insurgents and that they had no way of knowing of the presence of the photographers. After release of the video footage in April 2010, Amnesty International called for an independent, thorough and impartial investigation into the attack.
It’s premature to draw firm conclusions before we see what transpires in the trial. What we can say at this point is that it’s very disturbing that Manning was not permitted to offer the defence that he acted in the public interest. Amnesty International believes that the judge sentencing him for the 11 charges for which he has already pleaded guilty should take into account the fact that Bradley Manning has said that he reasonably believed that he was exposing serious human rights and humanitarian law violations.
Given that the facts of this case seem to point to a mixed record of disclosures, Amnesty International believes that the judge should either dismiss the remaining charges in the interest of justice or, at a minimum, allow Manning to use a public interest defence.
In a case such as this one, the public interest in disclosure should be weighed against the government’s interest in maintaining the confidentiality of its information. In circumstances where disclosure is in the public interest—for example, if someone were to disclose information that he or she reasonably believes to constitute evidence of serious human rights violations that a government should not try to conceal—those circumstances should be considered and could outweigh the government’s interest in maintaining the confidentiality of its information
If the government decides to prosecute, the government employee should have the opportunity to present as a defence the reasons why he or she believes the disclosure was in the public interest..
It should also be noted that our organisation does not oppose the fact that Bradley Manning’s case is being heard in a military court. This is because Bradley Manning is a serving soldier charged under
military law for offences relating to the duties he owed to the US government as a member of the armed forces (all charges have been brought under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, although some of
the alleged offences involve violations of the Espionage Act). This case doesn’t involve the kinds of circumstances where we call for members of the military to be tried in a civilian court. It doesn’t involve
allegations that a member of the armed forces violated the human rights of a civilian, for example, nor does it involve charges of serious crimes under international law.
Thank you, once again, for your query. I do hope this clarifies Amnesty’s work on his case and explains why Mr Manning has not, yet, been classified as a Prisoner of Conscience.
Supporter Care Team
Amnesty International UK
The Human Rights Action Centre
17-25 New Inn Yard