Earlier this week I read that Bradley Manning’s lawyers have moved that the charges against him be dismissed on the grounds that he has been subjected to “unlawful pretrial punishment” and “unduly onerous confinement conditions.” Manning provided testimony in court on Tuesday in support of this motion. (http://usnews.nbcnews.com/bradley-manning)
Manning was held without charge for nine months in the brig at Quantico Marine Corps Base in Virginia. He was in isolation for 23 hours a day, and faced among other things, the Abu Ghraib-style humiliation of being forced to strip and surrender his clothing nightly. A United Nations investigator determined that these conditions were cruel, inhuman and degrading. I am convinced that the extremes to which Manning was subjected in the Marine Base brig were designed to destroy his spirit and coerce him into testifying against Julian Assange and the Wikileaks community.
It is obvious to me that the government’s mistreatment of Bradley Manning warrants the dismissal of the charges against him. Unfortunately, it is equally clear that despite the strength of Manning’s claims, the military courts will determine that his trial should go forward. Moreover, it is unlikely that anyone will ever be called to account for violating his human rights.
Beyond that, I suspect that Manning ultimately will be convicted. After all, the nation’s Commander in Chief, President Obama, has already declared him guilty. We can only hope that he is not given one of those excessively long sentences that almost inevitably follow when individuals take courageous acts of conscience that expose the criminal behavior of those in power.
So, in all likelihood, Manning will stay in jail and those who should be punished will remain free. Manning should have been given a medal rather than endure over two years of confinement, an impending trial and a likely prison sentence. Instead, those responsible for the crimes he exposed should be imprisoned and those who established the terms of his detention should be on trial. But it shouldn’t stop there. The magistrates, who claim to act with integrity, but instead preside as overseers of an unfair system, should be censured. The American system of injustice, be it civilian or military, has reached such a sorry state that the robes of many judges have become mantels of shame rather than symbols of honor.
Although I do not practice in court, as a lawyer I am acutely aware of and have the most profound respect for attorneys who continue the fight for human rights when the courts are stacked with judges who continence abuses and ignore torture. I know that our terrible system would be even worse without these legal fighters. Perhaps the few of them who comprise Bradley Manning’s defense team will pull off a miracle, and this young man, who should be hailed as a hero, will once again be free.
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