Doctors4Assange statement on Chelsea Manning

March 12, 2020

Doctors4Assange is relieved that the torture of Chelsea Manning has at last ended, four months after the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture demanded that the United States end its punitive and coercive imprisonment and fines. Judge Anthony J. Trenga of the Eastern District of Virginia today ordered Manning’s immediate release from custody, finding that “…Ms. Manning’s appearance before the Grand Jury is no longer needed, in light of which her detention no longer serves any coercive purpose.”

Despite releasing her from jail, Judge Trenga entered an order for a fine of $256,000 incurred per a contempt finding in May, 2019. Doctors4Assange protests this excessive and vindictive fine and calls for its dismissal.

Manning’s torture was so extreme that she attempted suicide yesterday, March 11 in order to escape it. She was hospitalized in critical condition for her self-inflicted injuries. Since then, she has been upgraded to stable. The timing of her release is curious, coming just one day after her suicide attempt.

Doctors4Assange notes that torturing detainees to the point of suicide is a pattern of the U.S. and U.K. authorities in their pursuit of WikiLeaks. Despite our letter to the Lancet demanding an end to the torture of Julian Assange, observers of his extradition hearing in the U.K. pointed out that the judge appeared determined to keep Assange in a bullet-proof glass enclosure unable to communicate with his lawyers, despite all precedent and authority at her disposal to let him sit beside his lawyers, and despite the fact that Assange is not accused of violent offenses. The only remaining rationale for the judge’s behavior was to increase Assange’s isolation, humiliation and torment, all components of his psychological torture.

Manning was jailed in May 2019 for refusing to testify to a Grand Jury that was contemplating additional charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Manning maintained that, during her court-martial, she had already fully disclosed everything about her interactions with Assange in releasing materials to WikiLeaks in 2010. Despite having nothing new to offer the Grand Jury, the judge nevertheless held her in contempt and ordered her jailed. The judge also imposed fines of $500 per day beginning 30 days into her sentence, escalating to $1000 per day after 60 days.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Professor Nils Melzer, wrote a letter to the United States government on November 1 2019, reporting his findings that Chelsea Manning’s coercive imprisonment, the conditions she had endured thus far during that imprisonment, and fines constituted torture under Articles 1, 2, 15 and 16 of the United Nations Convention Against Torture or CAT. He also noted that in accordance with being a signatory to the CAT, the United States was obligated to release her immediately, investigate the authorities responsible for her torture, and compensate her. To date, the United States still has not even responded to his letter, a behaviour that he notes is consistently exhibited by states guilty of actions that constitute torture.

Doctors4Assange adds its voice to the U.N. Special Rapporteur’s call for an investigation of the 10 months of torture endured by Manning and that she be compensated for this torture. We condemn in the strongest terms possible the immoral, illegal, unethical, and archaic use of Grand Juries, coercive imprisonment and fines, and prolonged solitary confinement. These measures are especially egregious in Manning’s case as they served no legitimate legal purpose given her prior full, forthcoming, and truthful disclosures in the matter regarding Assange and WikiLeaks. In addition, they are directly responsible for the harm Manning suffered yesterday and the inevitable continuing serious sequelae.

Doctors4Assange further notes that the U.K.’s psychological torture of Julian Assange, also called out by Nils Melzer in letters to the U.K. last year, and by our letter to the Lancet in February of this year, continues unabated. We repeat our demand for the immediate release of Assange to an academic hospital for relief from the conditions causing his torture, and for treatment of its effects. In addition, we join leading legal and human rights authorities in calling for the denial of the U.S. extradition request, with its prospect of further psychological torture, including under so-called Special Administrative Measures. Crucially, we repeat that as an untreated victim of ongoing psychological torture Julian Assange is, by definition, unfit for trial.

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