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UN official 'frustrated' by lack of access to Wikileaks whistleblower

delhi Updated: Apr 11, 2011 23:47 IST
Sanjib Kr Baruah
Sanjib Kr Baruah
Hindustan Times
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The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture has said that despite repeated requests to visit Wikileaks whistleblower, the United States Government has not granted him unmonitored access to the detainee.

"I am frustrated by my lack of access to Bradley E. Manning," Juan E. Méndez, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, said in a release.

"Since December 2010, I have been engaging the US Government on visiting Mr. Manning, at the invitation of his Counsel, to determine his current condition," the human rights expert said. "Unfortunately, the US Government has not been receptive to a confidential meeting with Manning."

As part of his mandate, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, requires unimpeded access to all places of detention, where he can hold private, confidential and unsupervised interviews with detainees so as to ensure the credibility of any interviews that an independent expert holds with detainees or persons who allege that they have been subjected to torture and ill-treatment.

"The alternative is a 'private visit', the difference between the two is that the latter takes place in the presence of a guard, while an official visit may be unmonitored," Méndez said.

"In fact, such forms of interview have been used by the Special Rapporteur in, at least, 18 countries over the last 6 years." On Friday, Méndez held a conversation with high authorities in the departments of defense and state who confirmed that Manning could ask to see the Special Rapporteur if he so wished and in that case the US Government would have no objection to a 'private visit,' meaning a visit that is monitored by prison officials.

"I have since last year on several occasions raised serious concern about the conditions of detention of Mr. Manning, who since his arrest in May 2010, has been confined to his cell for twenty-three hours a day at the Marine Corps Brig, Quantico, Virginia. I have also urged the authorities to ensure his physical and mental integrity," Méndez said.

Bradley E. Manning, 24, is a US army soldier who was arrested in May 2010 in Iraq on suspicion of having passed classified information to the whistleblower website WikiLeaks. He was charged in July that year with transferring classified data comprising over 250,000 US diplomatic cables onto his personal computer, and communicating 'confidential' information to an unauthorised source.

Brought to the US in July 2010, Manning has since then has been held in "maximum custody" solitary confinement at the Marine Corps Brig, Virginia. Rights watchdog body Amnesty International had in January expressed concern about the conditions in which Manning is being held, calling them 'harsh' and 'punitive'.