[Ppnews] Bradley Manning, Solitary Confinement and the Occupy 4 Prisoners

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Feb 23 10:45:17 EST 2012

February 23, 2012

Bradley Manning, Solitary Confinement and the Occupy 4 Prisoners

In the Hole


Today US Army Private Bradley Manning is to be formally charged with 
numerous crimes at Fort Meade, Maryland.   Manning, who was nominated 
for the Nobel Peace Prize by members of the Icelandic Parliament, is 
charged with releasing hundreds of thousands of documents exposing 
secrets of the US government to the whistleblower website Wikileaks. 
These documents exposed lies, corruption and crimes by the US and 
other countries.  The Bradley Manning defense team points out 
accurately that much of what was published by Wikileaks was either 
not actually secret or should not have been secret.

The Manning prosecution is a tragic miscarriage of justice.  US 
officials are highly embarrassed by what Manning exposed and are 
shooting the messenger.  As Glen Greenwald, the terrific Salon 
writer, has observed, President Obama has prosecuted more 
whistleblowers for espionage than all other presidents combined.

One of the most outrageous parts of the treatment of Bradley Manning 
is that the US kept him in illegal and torturous solitary confinement 
conditions for months at the Quantico Marine base in 
Virginia.  Keeping Manning in solitary confinement sparked challenges 
from many groups including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, 
the Center for Constitutional Rights, the ACLU and the New York Times.

Human rights' advocates rightly point out that solitary confinement 
is designed to break down people mentally.  Because of that, 
prolonged solitary confinement is internationally recognized as a 
form of torture.  The conditions and practices of isolation are in 
violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN 
Convention against Torture, and the UN Convention on the Elimination 
of all forms of Discrimination.

Medical experts say that after 60 days in solitary peoples' mental 
state begins to break down.  That means a person will start to 
experience panic, anxiety, confusion, headaches, heart palpitations, 
sleep problems, withdrawal, anger, depression, despair, and 
over-sensitivity. Over time this can lead to severe psychiatric 
trauma and harms like psychosis, distortion of reality, 
hallucinations, mass anxiety and acute confusion. Essentially, the 
mind disintegrates.

That is why the United Nations special rapporteur on torture sought 
to investigate Manning's solitary confinement and reprimanded the US 
when the Army would not let him have an unmonitored visit.

History will likely judge Manning as heroic as it has Daniel 
Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers.

It is important to realize that tens of thousands of other people 
besides Manning are held in solitary confinement in the US today and 
every day.  Experts estimate a minimum of 20,000 people are held in 
solitary in supermax prisons alone, not counting thousands of others 
in state and local prisons who are also held in solitary 
confinement.  And solitary confinement is often forced on Muslim 
prisoners, even pre-trial people who are assumed innocent, under 
federal Special Administrative Measures.

In 1995, the U.N. Human Rights Committee stated that isolation 
conditions in certain U.S. maximum security prisons were incompatible 
with international standards. In 1996, the U.N. special rapporteur on 
torture reported on cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment in U.S. 
supermax prisons. In 2000, the U.N. Committee on Torture roundly 
condemned the United States for its treatment of prisoners, citing 
supermax prisons. In May 2006, the same committee concluded that the 
United States should "review the regimen imposed on detainees in 
supermax prisons, in particular, the practice of prolonged isolation."

John McCain said his two years in solitary confinement were torture. 
"It crushes your spirit and weakens your resistance effectively than 
any other form of mistreatment." The reaction of McCain and many 
other victims of isolation torture were described in an excellent 
2009 New Yorker article on isolation by Atul Gawande.  Gawande 
concluded that prolonged isolation is objectively horrifying, 
intrinsically cruel, and more widespread in the U.S. than any country 
in the world.

This week hundreds of members of the Occupy movement merged forces 
with people advocating for human rights for prisoners in 
demonstrations in California, New York, Ohio, and Washington 
DC.  They call themselves Occupy 4 Prisoners.  Activists are working 
to create a social movement for serious and fundamental changes in 
the US criminal system.

One of the major complaints of prisoner human rights activists is the 
abuse of solitary confinement in prisons across the US.  Prison 
activist Mumia Abu-Jamal said justice demands the end of solitary, 
"It means the abolition of solitary confinement, for it is no more 
than modern-day torture chambers for the poor."  Pelican Bay State 
Prison in California, the site of a hunger strike by hundreds of 
prisoners last year, holds over 1000 inmates in solitary confinement, 
some as long as 20 years.

At the Occupy Prisoners rally outside San Quentin prison, the three 
American hikers who were held for a year in Iran told of the 
psychological impact of 14 months of solitary confinement.  Sarah 
Shourd said the time without human contact drove her to beat the 
walls of her cell until her knuckles bled.

When Manning was held in solitary he was kept in his cell 23 hours a 
day for months at a time.  The US government tortured him to send a 
message to others who might consider blowing the whistle on US 
secrets.  At the same time, tens of thousands of others in the US are 
being held in their cells 23 hours a day for months, even years at a 
time.  That torture is also sending a message.

Thousands stood up with Bradley Manning and got him released from 
solitary.  People must likewise stand up with the thousands of others 
in solitary as well.

So, stand in solidarity with Bradley Manning and fight against his 
prosecution.  And stand also against solitary confinement of the tens 
of thousands in US jails and prisons.  Check out the Bradley Manning 
Support Network, Solitary Watch, and Occupy 4 Prisoners for ways to 

Bill Quigley is a human rights lawyer who teaches at Loyola 
University New Orleans and works with the Center for Constitutional 
Rights.  A version of this article with full sources is available. He 
is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of 
Illusion, forthcoming from AK Press. You can reach Bill at 
q<mailto:quigley77 at gmail.com>uigley77 at gmail.com

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