Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) tweeted on Tuesday (2 April) for the releaseof whistleblower and activist Chelsea Manning.
A federal judge jailed Manning in March for refusing to testify in a federal investigation. While details of the investigation remain under seal, Manning confirmed authorities asked her about WikiLeaks.
‘These secret proceedings tend to favor the government,’ she told reporters outside the courthouse before the hearing. ‘I’m always willing to explain things publicly. I’ve given voluminous testimony; I’ve given voluminous information.’
In her tweet, Ocasio-Cortez wrote authorities ‘trapped’ Manning in solitary confinement and described it as ‘torture’. She also wrote the authorities should release Manning on bail.
Solitary confinement as ‘torture’
According to Chelsea Resists, a support committee for Manning, she has been held in solitary confinement for 16 days as of 23 March.
They provided a screenshot of a statement describing ‘Administrative Segregation’, in which inmates are in their cells ‘for a maximum of 22 hours a day’.
The committee also states Manning can make phone calls and move outside of her cell during the hours between 1 and 3 am.
Further in the statement, they quote Juan Mendez, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and a professor on human rights at American University.
‘I have defined prolonged solitary confinement as any period in excess of 15 days,’ he wrote.
In his research, he has come to define solitary confinement as a form of punishment that can constitute torture.
He continued, describing the negative effects of solitary confinement: ‘This definition reflects the fact that most of the scientific literature shows that, after 15 days, certain changes in brain functions occur and the harmful psychological effects of isolation can become irreversible. Prolonged solitary confinement must be absolutely prohibited, because it always amounts to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and may even constitute torture.’
The statement concludes with various health problems Manning has faced while in confinement.
Disputes from the sheriff
Dana Lawhorne, the sheriff of Alexandria, Virginia, where Manning is being held, disputed these claims to CNN. She claimed the reports were ‘not accurate or fair’.
‘Our facility does not have “solitary confinement” and inmates housed in administrative segregation for safety and security reasons still have access to social visits, books, recreation, and break time outside their cells,’ she said.
Lawthorne also added ‘(the) federal government has never suggested to us how to treat any inmate and it is unfair to imply that there is a “conspiracy” of any kind’.
Manning’s attorney confirmed she is receiving medical attention and hormones following her gender confirmation surgery in October.
Manning’s history of whistleblowing
In 2013, the government convicted Manning in a court-martial trial for violations of the Espionage Act when she was an analyst in the United States Army. She disclosed over 700,000 military and diplomatic documents, both classified and unclassified, to WikiLeaks.
Initiated in 2006, WikiLeaks operates in publishing news leaks and secret information from anonymous sources.
Manning received a 35-year prison sentence before President Obama commuted her sentence in 2017.
Authorities also charged WikiLeaks’ founder, Julia Assange, in a separate case that remains under seal. He currently has asylum at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.