U.N. diplomat is denied private meeting with WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning
By Ellen Nakashima, Monday, April 11, 7
A United Nations diplomat charged with investigating claims of torture said Monday that he is "deeply disappointed and frustrated" that U.S. defense officials have refused his request for an unmonitored visit with Pfc. Bradley Manning, the Army intelligence analyst accused of passing classified material to WikiLeaks.
Juan E. Mendez, the U.N. special rapporteur on torture, said his request for a private interview with Manning was denied by the Defense Department on Friday. Instead, he has been told that any visit must be supervised.
Mendez has been seeking to determine whether Manning's confinement at a military brig at
"My request . . . is not onerous
Manning, 23, has been held at
For most of this time, military officials have kept Manning under "prevention of injury" watch, asserting that he poses a risk to himself. That means he spends 23 hours a day alone in his cell, with one hour allowed for exercise, and has no contact with other prisoners. He is allowed visitors for a few hours on the weekends. He must give up his prison uniform at night, though jail officials have now issued him a smock to wear.
Last month, however, P.J. Crowley, then the spokesman for the State Department, said the conditions of Manning's confinement were "counterproductive and stupid" — a comment that angered the White House and prompted Crowley's resignation.
On Sunday, the New York Review of Books published a letter signed by more than 250 lawyers, professors and authors, including
In an interview, Mendez said that "at first glance," Manning's case seems to be "of interest to my mandate," which is to investigate cases of cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment and report them to the U.N. Human Rights Council.
To do his job, he said, he needs to be able to speak to Manning without witnesses, including guards patrolling nearby. Otherwise, he said, "I cannot be sure Manning is being absolutely candid and honest with me if he knows that he's being monitored."
He said he is willing to see Manning nonetheless, if Manning wishes to see him.
The Defense Department has also denied requests for unmonitored visits with Manning by a representative of Amnesty International and by Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (D-Ohio), according to the soldier's attorney.
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