Bradley Manning Verdict: Hysteria Over Leakers, Impunity for Human Rights Violators

U.S. Army Private First Class Bradley Manning arrives at a U.S. military court facility to hear his sentence in his trial at Fort Meade, Maryland on August 21, 2013 (Photo Credit: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images).

U.S. Army Private First Class Bradley Manning arrives at a U.S. military court facility to hear his sentence in his trial at Fort Meade, Maryland on August 21, 2013 (Photo Credit: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images).

UPDATE: It was reported on August 22 that Pfc. Manning is now publicly identifying as Chelsea Manning and requests that she be identified as such from now on. Amnesty International will now refer to her as Chelsea Manning out of respect for her wishes.

It has been 1,182 days since Pfc. Bradley Manning was arrested at Forward Operating Base Hammer, Iraq for releasing classified information to Wikileaks. This morning, he was sentenced to 35 years in prison, as well as received a reduction in rank to private, forfeiture of his military pay, and dishonorable discharge.

He has already served more than three years in pre-trial detention, including 11 months in conditions described by the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture as cruel and inhumane.

He will get credit for those more than 3 years of pre-trial confinement, including 112 days for being unlawfully punished by harsh conditions at the Quantico, Va., Marine Corps brig – a literal drop in the bucket compared to the enormous sentence he is facing.

Manning acted at least in part on the belief that he could spark a meaningful public debate on the costs of war, and specifically on the conduct of the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan, which he reasonably believed amounted to human rights violations.

His revelations included reports on battlefield detentions and previously unseen footage of journalists and other civilians being killed in a U.S. helicopter attack, information which should always have been subject to public scrutiny.

Despite the fact that he faced the possibility of a life in prison – either through conviction on the aiding the enemy charge or the maximum sentence for all of the other charges of which he was convicted – he was never able to raise a public interest defense during trial, to explain his motives, or to provide context for why he believed his actions would remove the fog of war for the world.

Sitting in court for much of the trial, it was hard to watch this young man sit there, stone faced, staring headlong at the possibility of a lifetime in prison.

The prosecution appealed to the Judge to sentence Manning to 60 years, not only to punish him for violating his military oath, but also to send a message to any potential future leaker. International human rights law frowns on retributory sentencing, and excessive punishment may constitute arbitrary deprivation of liberty as well as cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment.

Sitting in court for much of the trial, it was hard to watch this young man sit there, stone faced, staring headlong at the possibility of a lifetime in prison. All the while knowing that numerous high-level officials have never been held accountable for the grave human rights violations committed during the U.S. government’s so-called “War on Terror.”

For example, high-ranking officials avoided investigation for the abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison and elsewhere in Iraq in 2003-2004. While 11 low-ranking soldiers were sentenced to prison terms after being convicted in courts martial, they have all since been released. The Brigadier General in charge of the detention facility was reprimanded for dereliction of duty and demoted to Colonel. No criminal charges have ever been made in relation to the U.S. secret detention program where enforced disappearance and torture were authorized at the highest level of government. Details of the program remain classified.

For all of the reasons above, Amnesty International is joining the Bradley Manning Support Network to petition President Barack Obama to grant Manning a commutation to time served.

AIUSA welcomes a lively and courteous discussion that follow our Community Guidelines. Comments are not pre-screened before they post but AIUSA reserves the right to remove any comments violating our guidelines.

8 thoughts on “Bradley Manning Verdict: Hysteria Over Leakers, Impunity for Human Rights Violators

  1. I don't understand this: "he was never able to raise a public interest defense during trial, to explain his motives". It's not explained in the copy.

    • The trial was extremely unfair. The judge (who also was the sole jury) did not allow the Defense to present his motives nor his intent into the deliberation. In other words, the judge denied him presentation of his defense- which would have properly presented him as a whistleblower exposing egregious crimes against humanity. This was a show trial in every sense of the word.

    • Exactly. He is a whistleblower, exposing horrible war crimes, and as such should be protected from prosecution. He has already served a longer sentence than any other leaker in history, and his sentence is being unjustly used as a means to "send a message" to future leakers! That is an improper use of the system of justice and should be thrown out as it is a further abuse to this principled young man.

  2. Amnesty International should sue the U.S. Government to seek a writ of mandamus ordering the Obama administration to pardon manning and compensate him for what they've done.

  3. Thank you Amnesty International for finally taking up this case of this wonderful humanitarian young soldier.
    His trial was beyond the pale in improper procedures and unjust rulings.
    To begin with, the judge (who was also the jury) had already been told by her boss President Obama, that Pvt. Manning was guilty. This was stated in public by Pres. Obama. This illegal command influence by itself prejudiced the judge before the trial. The judge thereupon ruled in every possible way to hobble the Defense and enable the Prosecution.
    The defense was not allowed to present a proper defense that would have noted Pvt Manning's proper stature as a whistleblower who exposed crimes against humanity. THIS was the proper presentation for this trial- and it was not allowed. Most of the defense witnesses were denied, except those that coincided with prosecution witnesses. Manning was not allowed bail and so his defense was further hampered by having to meet with him under monitored, possibly recorded restrictive circumstances.
    The prosecution was allowed every possible advantage, including ALL of their witnesses, allowance of prosecution witnesses to "testify" by telephone or otherwise hidden from view. So the accused was not allowed to face his accusers. Some prosecution statements were outright hearsay or opinions about possible future consequences- not facts! There was actual perjury committed by some of the prosecution witnesses (who reversed previous sworn statements under oath in court!) and the judge did nothing about this and allowed these perjured statements to be entered. The judge allowed a single act to be entered as multiple infractions broken into steps, to unjustly multiply the number of charges. The judge allowed charges unsubstantiated by any evidence to stand all the way through to sentencing! thus unjustly increasing the pressure on the Defense and prejudicing the press and the public against Pvt Manning.
    Every possible hurdle was placed by the court as an obstacle to the press who thereupon mostly parroted statements put out by the court and who did not cover the crimes exposed by Pvt. Manning nor his actions as a whistleblower.