U.S. authorities’ treatment of WikiLeaks suspect Private Bradley Manning was “cruel and degrading,” the U.N. special rapporteur on torture Juan Ernesto Mendez said Monday.
“I believe Bradley Manning was subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in the excessive and prolonged isolation he was put in during the eight months he was in Quantico,” he told AFP, referring to the U.S. military prison near Washington.
Mendez said that “fortunately” the alleged mistreatment ended when Manning was transferred from Quantico to another prison in Kansas.
“But the explanation I was given for those eight months was not convincing for me,” he said, speaking on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva.
Jailed for more than a year and a half before his arraignment last month, Manning, 24, has complained of being placed in solitary confinement, of bullying by guards, and of being subjected to an ultra-restrictive regime in Quantico.
He has been charged with 22 counts in connection with turning over a massive cache of classified U.S. documents to the secret-spilling website WikiLeaks in one of the biggest intelligence breaches in U.S. history, including “aiding the enemy.”
At his arraignment hearing at the Fort Meade army base on February 24, when he declined to enter a plea, Manning’s civilian lawyer, David Coombs, said his client had been in confinement for 635 days.
Manning faces court martial later this year, accused of passing hundreds of thousands of military field reports from Iraq and Afghanistan and U.S. diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks between November 2009 and May 2010, when he served as an intelligence analyst in Iraq.
The military documents shed light on civilian deaths, while the diplomatic cables sparked a firestorm by disclosing the private remarks of heads of state and candid observations by senior U.S. officials.
The U.S. government slammed the disclosure of the documents by WikiLeaks, saying it threatened national security and the lives of foreigners working with the military and U.S. embassies.
WikiLeaks supporters view the site as a whistleblower that exposed U.S. wrongdoing and see Manning as a political prisoner.
Army investigators told a hearing in December that contact information for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, military reports, cables and other classified material had been found on computers and storage devices used by Manning.
Manning’s lawyers have portrayed him as suffering from “gender identity disorder,” saying he had created an online female alter ego called “Breanna Manning.”
The Bradley Manning Support Network said last month that Manning had been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by members of the Icelandic parliament.
Assange has meanwhile been in Britain fighting extradition to Sweden, where he faces sexual assault accusations.
He has denied the allegations, saying they are politically motivated.