For over five months, Bradley Manning has been held under Prevention of Injury (POI) watch at the Quantico Brig against the recommendations of three forensic psychiatrists. Manning’s attorney, David Coombs, has filed an Article 138 Complaint under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, asserting that this represents an abuse of Brig Commander James Averhart’s discretion.
Coombs’ complaint was filed after the Brig Commander placed Manning under “suicide risk” and MAX custody earlier this week, which made his conditions dramatically worse. Glenn Greenwald broke the story about the inhumane conditions of Manning’s pre-trial confinement last month, shortly before the New York Times reported that the Justice Department strategy regarding Wikileaks was to “persuade” Manning to testify against Julain Assange.
Dr. Jeff Kaye, who works with torture victims, wrote about the potential effects of Manning’s extended suicide watch/POI. He says that extended isolation is “a technique well-known to break down individuals.” But when the Brig Commander moved Manning to suicide risk/MAX custody, his conditions grew even more extreme:
- Must remain in his cell 24 hours per day, up from 23
- Stripped of all clothing except his underwear
- Prescription eyeglasses taken from him
- Forced to sit in “essential blindness” except for brief times when he is given reading or limited television privileges
- Guard outside his cell watching him at all times
The Brig Commander made this decision against the recommendations of three psychiatrists who have seen him, relying instead on the observations of the guards who watch him. Given the strenuous objection of Manning’s attorney and David House, both of whom continue to observe a marked decline in Manning’s physical and emotional condition, it is hard to view the Brig Commander’s decision as anything other than punitive.
After David Coombs filed the Article 138 complaint, and made the Army Staff Judge Advocate’s Office aware of what was happening, the Office worked through military channels and Manning was placed back on POI watch yesterday afternoon.
But the Army has never given an adequate justification as to why Manning is being held this way, and the Brig Commander has not explained why he continues to ignore the countless testimonials from site psychiatrists in making his determination to do so.
Over 40,000 people have now signed the petition to the Brig Commander, requesting that he heed the advice of the three psychiatrists and lift Manning’s POI/suicide watch.
Bradley Manning has not been convicted of anything. Abusing his mental health classification while attempting to “persuade” him to testify against Julian Assange has alarming echoes of the techniques used to elicit false confessions from terrorist suspects. It should alarm everyone that we could be watching pre-trial coersion becoming acceptable American shores. If so, we can all wave goodbye to “innocent until proven guilty.”
I’ll be driving down to Quantico tomorrow with Bradley’s friend David House, who will deliver the petition to the brig.
I know that it has been extremely meaningful to Bradley to know that he has the support of so many people.