Document - USA: Health concern for pre-trial detainee: Health Professional Action


PUBLIC Index: AMR 51/020/2011 (USA) Date: 18 March 2011

To: Health professionals

From: Amnesty international


RE: health concern for pre-trial detainee

Amnesty International is concerned for the health and well-being of Bradley Manning, a 23 year old US army private accused of leaking information to Wikileaks, who has been subjected to prolonged isolation, forced nudity, and other restrictive measures. Authorities have failed to implement the recommendations of military psychiatrists that restrictive measures should be lifted. These measures could have a negative impact on his mental health and well-being, and violate the prohibition of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment as well as the right of all prisoners to be treated humanely and with respect for their human dignity.

Bradley Manning has been held in harsh detention conditions in Quantico Marine Corps Base in Virginia, USA since 29 July 2010. He has been charged but not tried, and he is classified as a maximum custody detainee and is being held under a Prevention of Injury (POI) assignment-one step short of suicide watch. Amnesty International understands that no specific reasons have been formally provided to Bradley Manning for his maximum security classification or his POI assignment. Three forensic military psychiatrists have repeatedly recommended that the POI status be dropped, but these recommendations appear to have been disregarded.

The harsh conditions under which he is held mean he spends 23 hours in a single cell, measuring around 72 square feet (6.7 square metres). His cell is equipped only with a bed, toilet and sink. There is no window to the outside, the only view being on to a corridor through the barred doors of his cell. All meals are taken in his cell. He has no association or contact with other pre-trial detainees and he is allowed to exercise, alone, for just one hour a day – usually walking figures-of-eight in an empty room. He is not permitted to keep personal possessions in his cell, apart from one book or magazine at a time, which is taken away at night. Although he may write and receive correspondence, writing is only allowed at an allotted time during the day. He is also denied the opportunity for a work assignment which would allow him to be out of his cell for most of the day. During social and family visits Bradley Manning is shackled at the hands and legs. He is also shackled during meetings with his lawyer. He is checked on by guards every five minutes and he is not allowed to sleep during the day. He is required to remain visible at all times, including during night checks. His POI status has resulted in his being deprived of sheets and a separate pillow, except the one built into his mattress. Individuals exposed to this kind of prolonged or repeated periods in solitary confinement may experience depression, anxiety, and other significant mental health problems.1 This could further undermine his ability to assist in his defence and thus his right to a fair trial.

On 18 January 2011, Bradley Manning was temporarily categorised as a ‘suicide risk’, resulting in him being stripped of all his clothes except his underwear, and the confiscation of his prescription glasses for most of the day, which Manning says left him in “essential blindness”. Bradley Manning describes how he was verbally harassed just before the suicide watch and how he believes the punishment was imposed as a retribution for a protest against his conditions of detention that was held outside the Quantico military brig the previous day. He remained on suicide watch until 21 January.

Bradley Manning’s legal team submitted a complaint in January over his POI watch and to have his status reduced from maximum to medium security. On 1 March the Quantico base commander Colonel Daniel J. Choike denied this request. On 2 March, the same day that new charges were announced against him (see background information), Bradley Manning was stripped of all his clothing and left naked in his cell for seven hours. His clothes were returned to him the following morning but not until he was reportedly forced to stand at attention in front of the rest of the clothed inmates, still naked. This treatment followed closely after he made a sarcastic remark about the POI restrictions. Bradley Manning continues to be stripped of his clothing at night but has recently been given a suicide prevention “smock” to wear at night.

A spokesperson for the Marine Corps stated that his clothing was removed at night as a precaution so that he did not harm himself. Amnesty International believes that this latest measure constitutes further unnecessarily harsh treatment and humiliation. Bradley Manning is already under close supervision, including being monitored at all times by direct observation and by video, so it is difficult to see how the further measure of depriving him of clothing could have any legitimate purpose.


  • Explaining that you are a health professional concerned about human rights;

  • Noting the potential negative health effects of solitary confinement and that military psychologists at the Brig have repeatedly recommended a lifting of his POI status but that these recommendations appear to have been disregarded;

  • Urging the authorities to take immediate action to alleviate his conditions of isolation, reduce his maximum custody status and to lift other undue restrictions;

  • Stating that he should be allowed adequate exercise, access to books and writing materials and should be given an opportunity to engage in prison work, in accordance with the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners;


President Barack Obama

The White House

Office of the President

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington DC 20500, USA

Fax: + 1 202 456 2461


The Honorable Robert M. Gates

Secretary of Defense

1400 Defense Pentagon

Washington DC 20301, USA

Colonel Carl R. Coffman Jr.

Commander, US Army Garrison

204 Lee Avenue, Fort Myer

Virginia 22211-1199, USA

Colonel Daniel J. Choike

Base Commander,

MCB Quantico, 3250 Catlin Avenue


Virginia 22134-5000, USA

If you receive no reply within six weeks of sending your letter, please send a follow-up letter seeking a response. Please send copies of any letters you receive to the International Secretariat, attention of THE Health Team, 1 Easton Street, London WC1X 0DW or e-mail:

ADditional Information

In July 2010, Bradley Manning was charged with violating Articles 92 and 134 of the US Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) by transferring classified data onto his personal computer and passing that data to an unauthorized third party. On 2 March 2011 an additional 22 charges were laid against him, including violation of Article 104 of the UCMJ, known as ‘aiding the enemy’ having knowingly given intelligence to the enemy, through indirect means. This is a capital offence, but the army’s prosecution team have stated that they will not recommend the death penalty.

The classified data he is accused of leaking between November 2009 and May 2010 include a video of a military operation in Baghdad, known as video file “12 JUL 07 CZ ENGAGEMENT ZONE 30 GC Anyone.avi”. This video is believed to be the footage of the Apache helicopter airstrike attack on Baghdad in July 2007, published by Wikileaks in April 2010. The data he is alleged to have leaked also includes more than 380,000 military records from Iraq war files, 90,000 records from Afghan war files and over 250,000 classified US state department cables.

He is currently waiting for a hearing to determine whether he will face an army court martial. This hearing is expected in May or June 2011. Preliminary charges have been filed against him but it remains to be seen what he will eventually be charged with. This pre-trial hearing is expected in May or June 2011.

On 10 March, PJ Crowley, US Assistant Secretary of State of Public Affairs at the US State Department, stated publicly that Bradley Manning was being “mistreated” at Quantico military brig and that “What is being done to Bradley Manning is ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid on the part of the department of defence.” The following day, whilst not directly referring to PJ Crowley’s remarks, President Barack Obama told a White House press conference that he had asked the Pentagon “whether or not the procedures that have been taken in terms of his confinement are appropriate and are meeting our basic standards. They assure me that they are.” PJ Crowley resigned from his position two days later stating that he took full responsibility for his remarks.

1 S. Grassian, “Psychopathological effects of solitary confinement”, American Journal of Psychiatry 1983, 140: 1450-1454; S. Grassian, “Psychiatric effects of solitary confinement”, Journal of Law and Policy, 2006, 22: 325-84; C. Haney, “Mental health issues in long-term solitary and ‘supermax’ confinement”, Crime and Delinquency 2003, 49(1): 124–156; P. S. Smith, “The effects of solitary confinement on prison inmates: a brief history and review of the literature”, Crime and Justice 2006, 34: 441–528.

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