Human rights groups denounce Manning’s unjust sentence

PHOTO SOURCE: Jenny Jiang

Several prominent human rights groups have denounced the 35-year sentence imposed on Private Bradley Manning as unjust and called on President Barack Obama to commute his sentence to time served and to investigate possible war crimes and human rights violations disclosed by Manning. 

The 25-year-old former Army intelligence analyst was convicted of 20 charges – including espionage, theft, and computer fraud – for releasing 700,000 classified U.S. government records to WikiLeaks during his 2010 deployment in Iraq.

Read more: PFC Bradley Manning sentenced to 35 years for leaks

The records he leaked include the Apache “collateral murder” video showing the killing of two Reuters employees and unarmed civilians who came to their aid; the “significant activities” (SIGACT) reports filed by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan; 250,000 State Department diplomatic cables; and 700 Guantanamo detainee assessment briefs.

Some – but not all – of the records leaked by Manning revealed possible human rights violations and serious wrongdoings committed by U.S. troops and military contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Read more: List of the classified records released to WikiLeaks by PFC Bradley Manning

“I don’t think [Manning] should have been tried at all and that he should have been treated as a whistleblower, and that the people he was exposing and their criminality – those should have been on trial,” said Michael Ratner, President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights which represents WikiLeaks and Julian Assange.

Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have criticized the U.S. government for aggressively prosecuting Manning while choosing not to investigate and prosecute potential crimes uncovered by his leaks.

“The aggressive prosecution and harsh sentencing of Manning not only contrasts sharply with the total impunity of former senior US officials for torture and related abuses,” said Dinah PoKempner, general counsel at Human Rights Watch.

Read more: Amnesty International & Private Manning Support Network launch presidential pardon campaign

Widney Brown, Senior Director of International Law and Policy at Amnesty International, said the U.S. government should turn its focus on “investigating and delivering justice for the serious human rights abuses committed by its officials in the name of counter terror” instead of “fighting tooth and nail” to lock up Manning for decades.

Amnesty International has called for Manning’s sentence to be commuted to time served and for his immediate release. The organization has launched an online petition campaign to seek a presidential pardon for Manning. To learn more, please visit Petitions.WhiteHouse.gov.

Ratner argued that whistleblowers like Manning should not be prosecuted until the government officials who authorized or carried out illegal torture and detention programs are brought to justice.

“We hear pundits and sometimes journalists saying, ‘Well, he has to be punished for what he did. He broke the military oath.’ But I don’t hear these people calling for the prosecutions of people like Donald Rumsfeld or George Bush or [Dick] Cheney who were leading a torture program that was unprecedented in this country and it was completely illegal,” said Ratner. “My view is until we start prosecuting those kinds of people, there should be no prosecution of whistleblowers – real whistleblowers like Bradley Manning.”

 

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