Thirty-five years. That is the length of prison time that Chelsea Manning was sentenced to back in 2013 for publically releasing classified information, in the hopes of starting a conversation regarding the true nature of asymmetric warfare, and the harm coming to both civilians and soldiers as a result of the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This was an argument she was never allowed to raise as a defense during her trial — only as a point of mitigation during her sentencing.
Chelsea Manning’s sentence is more than 17 times longer than any other sentence previously administered for providing information to the media. It seems clear that this sentence serves only one purpose: to make an example of a soldier who only intended to show the true costs of war.
Under international human rights law, the “essential aim” of a penitentiary system should be the “reformation and social rehabilitation” of prisoners, rather than retribution. Excessive punishment may also constitute arbitrary deprivation of liberty in violation of the right to liberty. and may constitute cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment, in violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against Torture, which the United States has signed and ratified. Both U.S. and international human rights jurisprudence on sentencing emphasize the importance of a judicial determination based upon individualized consideration of the defendant.
Beyond her sentence, she was detained for more than three years before and during her trial, with eleven of those months spent in conditions described by the UN Special Rapporteur on torture as cruel and inhumane: two months in a segregation cage in Iraq, and nine months in a military brig at the Quantico base, where she was held in isolation when classified as needing protective status. Despite this known history, Chelsea Manning was again isolated as punishment for an attempted suicide earlier this summer while serving her sentence at a military prison at Fort Leavenworth. She has been informed that she may be subjected to solitary confinement again in the future for a second suicide attempt that took place while serving her solitary sentence for the first suicide attempt.
These are the reasons that Amnesty International has joined with Fight for the Future, the ACLU, Internet Archive, Demand Progress, and others to support Chelsea Manning’s application to President Obama to commute her sentence to #timeserved. The letter we submitted in support of her application is posted here.
Please join Amnesty International in this request for commutation to #timeserved from the President by signing this petition before 14 December 2016.