wikileaks: and time stands still for others

Last night I found this blog entry by Manning’s lawyer: A Typical Day for PFC Bradley Manning. Manning has been held since May in solitary confinement, but what exactly does that mean? There’s quite a few people who have no problem with “solitary confinement” — it seems clearly better than dealing with what popular imagination thinks are typical conditions of being in prison. But for a non-violent prisoner, not yet charged let alone convicted, over allegations that do not involve violence or physical harm to others, the reasons for such treatment are completely unclear.

The totality of details in his daily routine are mind numbing when taking together (23 hours a day in the cell, no exercise but walking for that 24th hour, precisely controlled schedule, limited reading or writing, and so on), but this part of his incarceration particularly stood out:

PFC Manning is held in his cell for approximately 23 hours a day. The guards are required to check on PFC Manning every five minutes by asking him if he is okay. PFC Manning is required to respond in some affirmative manner. At night, if the guards cannot see PFC Manning clearly, because he has a blanket over his head or is curled up towards the wall, they will wake him in order to ensure he is okay.

If I understand this correctly, he hasn’t had a full night’s sleep since May. There is no reason for Manning to be on Prevention of Injury watch (the reason for the checks every five minutes) according to his lawyer. Manning has not been suicidal or tending to self-harm.

I linked to this in my last Wikileaks post, but it bears repeating: The inhumane conditions of Bradley Manning’s detention

Just by itself, the type of prolonged solitary confinement to which Manning has been subjected for many months is widely viewed around the world as highly injurious, inhumane, punitive, and arguably even a form of torture.  In his widely praised March, 2009 New Yorker article — entitled “Is Long-Term Solitary Confinement Torture?” — the surgeon and journalist Atul Gawande assembled expert opinion and personal anecdotes to demonstrate that, as he put it, “all human beings experience isolation as torture.”  By itself, prolonged solitary confinement routinely destroys a person’s mind and drives them into insanity.  A March, 2010 article in The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law explains that “solitary confinement is recognized as difficult to withstand; indeed, psychological stressors such as isolation can be as clinically distressing as physical torture.”

While I understand that, again, many people disagree that solitary confinement is inhumane treatment despite emerging research (and changes to our overall treatment of prisoners will certainly not be happening overnight), there still seems no clear reason for applying this to any but intractable, violent, or suicidal convicts. Manning is none of these.

In addition, the conditions of his confinement do not appear to be standard for those who are held on similar charges, which suggests that they are related to Wikileaks and thus politically motivated (and Manning has not even been formally charged yet — which to me makes all this even more inappropriate): Bradley Manning’s Life Behind Bars

Manning’s fate will be determined over the following months. What is clear today is that he’s being held in extraordinarily harsh conditions—notably harsher than Bryan Minkyu Martin, the naval intelligence specialist who allegedly tried to sell military secrets to an undercover FBI agent, and is currently being held awaiting trial, though not in solitary confinement. Manning, who has been convicted of nothing, has spent the better part of a year incommunicado, living the life of a man convicted of a heinous crime. Coombs challenges the legality of what he says is “unlawful pretrial punishment.” He is working to lift the POI restrictions placed on his client.

Solitary confinement for a difficult, violent, convicted criminal may be one thing. But this is something else altogether — and it suggests to me that the military or the government is planning to use the conditions of his imprisonment to force Manning to testify as they wish to improve his lot. This would be an unconscionable move by the leaders of a purportedly free and democratic country.

[ETA: I want to point out, again, that Manning is subject to the Military Code and so does not have some of the same rights a civilian does. Nevertheless, under 810. ART. 10.

Any person subject to this chapter charged with an offense under this chapter shall be ordered into arrest or confinement, as circumstances may require; but when charged only with an offense normally tried by a summary court-martial, he shall not ordinarily be placed in confinement. When any person subject to this chapter is placed in arrest or confinement prior to trial, immediate steps shall be taken to inform him of the specific wrong of which he is accused and to try him or to dismiss the charges and release him.

it seems that at the least charges should have been filed by now, if not the trial itself started.]

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