Jailed and tortured; accused of exposing war crimes…and being a WikiLeaks whistle-blower.
Last Sunday I attended an international meeting called by London Catholic Worker – ‘Free Bradley Manning! End the War!’ The gathering was held at the Giuseppe Conlon Hall in Harringay, north London, with the main meeting in the Roman Catholic church adjoining.
Although I knew more about Bradley Manning than the Catholic Worker organisation, I quickly learnt that this group of left wing Roman Catholics (organisation founded in 1933) has a proud record of campaigning for civil liberties and against war. The group in Ireland campaigned with others against the use of Shannon airport and a military stop over for transportation of troops to Iraq and its use for extraordinary rendition. The philosophy of the group has been described as Christian anarchism, but what’s also important is what they do.
The meeting itself was a mixture of talks and some great music. Guest speaker campaigning solicitor Gareth Peirce was unable to give her speech in person, having just flown to the US to attend the funeral of a close friend, but we watch a video recording where she set out her concerns about the US judicial system in general and the harsh treatment of Bradley Manning in particular. Another very impressive speaker was Ben Griffin a former British SAS soldier who refused to return to Iraq and left the Army, citing not only the “illegal” tactics of US troops and the policies of coalition forces, but also that the invasion itself was illegal, being contrary to international law. He expected to be court-martialled, but was instead let go with a glowing testimonial from his commanding officer in 2006.! He had previously served a three month tour in Baghdad alongside American forces, including the Delta force (Special Forces) personnel.
Onto Bradley Manning himself. We were given a vivid description his day in the prison which starts at 5.00a.m.at Quantico Marine Base. He has been in solitary confinement (itself a form of torture) now for eight months and has yet to be charged with any offence. The worldwide campaign for his immediate release is growing. Avaaz the US based internet campaigning organisation launched an online petition on 7 April at: https://secure.avaaz.org/en/bradley_manning/?fp It has some 524,000 signatures. On 11 April nearly 300 of the top US law scholars called on the Obama administration to end the torturous treatment of Bradley Manning. The strongly worded open letter, published in the New York Times Review of Books that day, called the condition’s of Manning’s detention a violation Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment and the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee against punishment without trial.
Last month Welsh MP Ann Clwyd sponsored an early-day motion (EDM 1624) urging UK officials to confront the United States about the harsh pretrial confinement of Manning, who is held in conditions many have likened to torture. By the Easter break, the motion has been supported by 40 MPs. Henry Bellingham MP, the Foreign Office Minister, promised to raise the issue of Manning’s confinement conditions with the U.S. State Department. Manning’s mother is Welsh and lives in Pembrokeshire, and thus Manning can claim dual citizenship by birthright. Bellingham has acknowledged that Ann Clwyd’s “understanding of the British Nationality Act is accurate” – namely, that Manning automatically acquired U.K. citizenship at birth.
So there is much we can do. Get your MP to support Ann Clwyd’s EDM after the Easter break. Keep up to date with the campaign at: http://www.bradleymanning.org/ and sign the Avaaz online petition, raise the matter with your union branch and get their support for the campaign. But most of all don’t forget this brave man.