Sharon Staples, US Army Private Chelsea Manning’s aunt, claims that Manning has been tortured by the authorities in the United States.
‘What really hurt me was the treatment Chelsea received in Quantico two years before the trial: stripped naked, kept in solitary confinement, made to stand in a corner, everything taken away,’ she said, speaking to WalesOnline. ‘Chelsea has been punished for releasing information, but whatever happened to the people responsible, the people in that helicopter gunship for instance – were they punished? That always plays heavily on my mind.’
The claims of torture come right on the heels of a published US Senate Intelligence Report condemning the CIA’s use of ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’. Popularly known as the ‘Torture Report’, it details the routine abuse of prisoners at the hands of the CIA as a part of the War on Terror from 2001 to 2006.
Supporters for Manning have argued successfully in the past that her treatment even before the trial began constitutes unlawful pre-trial punishment, an argument Military Judge Denise Lind agreed with, though she only granted Manning 122 days credit on her sentence because of this.
Solitary confinement is a common practice in the United States prison system, but an earlier report by WIRED states that, according to an online blog post by her defence lawyer, Manning was forced to sleep naked even before her trial. Attorney David Coombs argued, at the time, that this was possibly illegal treatment that had been issued from the higher levels of the Marine Corps. In 2011, the Pentagon apparently denied that Manning’s incarceration was any different to any other inmate’s. Albert Woodfox has so far served the longest term in solitary confinement to date, having been in solitary confinement since 1972.
Manning has been sentenced to 35 years in jail following the revelation that she provided classified documents to Wikileaks, which then released them. The documents Private Manning gave to the website included footage of a ‘collateral damage’ killing of two Reuters journalists and unarmed civilians by the US Military in Iraq. Manning announced that she was transitioning on 22 August 2013, the day after she was sentenced.