Bradley ManningThe Marines have replaced the commander in charge of the Quantico base detention facilities, where Bradley Manning has been held in severe isolation for more than seven months. Commander James Averhart, as commander of the Quantico brig, had authority over the conditions of Manning’s detention. Last week Averhart punished Bradley Manning, ignoring the advice of military psychiatrists, by putting him on suicide watch for 48 hours. CNN reports:

The Marines have changed the commander in charge of the detention facilities at Quantico, Virginia, days after the attorney for WikiLeaks suspect Private First Class Bradley Manning filed a complaint that he is being unfairly treated in detention.

Chief Warrant Officer Denise Barnes replaced Commander James Averhart on Monday, said Quantico spokesman Lt. Brian Villiard said.

Military officials admitted to NBC on Monday that Averhart abused his authority by putting Manning on an unnecessary suicide watch. Jane Hamsher wrote yesterday:

Last night, anonymous military officials admitted to NBC’s Jim Miklaszewski that Quantico Brig Commander James Averhart abused his authority when he placed Bradley Manning on suicide watch as punishment for failure to obey orders. [...]

The acknowledgment of anonymous military officials that Averhart abused Manning’s medical classification to unnecessarily subject him to harsh, degrading and restrictive conditions clearly demonstrates that Quantico officials have made false statements about what they are doing to Manning, and their reasons for doing so.  Placing Manning on suicide watch in order to punish him was undeniably a way to subject him to the severe conditions of extreme solitary confinement while disingenuously maintaining it was out of medical necessity.

The anonymous military officials cited in Jim Miklaszewski’s reporting say that Averhart “did not have the authority to place Manning on suicide watch for two days last week, and that only medical personnel are allowed to make that call.”

However, Manning continues to be held on POI watch on Averhart’s orders, which also override the recommendations of medical personnel.  It is not clear how Averhart exceeded and abused his authority in one case, but is justified in ignoring the recommendations of the very same brig psychiatrists in the other.

Last night CNN reported, and then killed, a story that Averhart was under investigation for his treatment of Manning. While today’s CNN story on Averhart getting the boot claims that the change of command was ordered in October, it’s hard to believe it’s a matter of coincidence that Averhart is leaving after the events of the last week.

But a change in command doesn’t mean a change in conditions for Manning. The new commander of the Quantico brig, current base Chief Warrant Officer Denise Barnes, will make a decision in the coming weeks about whether to keep Bradley Manning on the excessive Prevention of Injury order, as well as evaluate whether he should be kept in maximum security, according to Manning’s lawyer.

“We are hopeful that she will do a complete review of PFC Manning,” custody situation, Manning’s lawyer David Coombs told CNN. Manning’s current situation “is unwarranted and unnecessary while he awaits trial.”

We won’t stop fighting for humane treatment of Bradley Manning. Sign our petition to incoming Quantico brig Commander Barnes, and donate to the Bradley Manning Advocacy Fund to help in Bradley’s public defense.

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