A top official at the United Nations has accused the United States government of using torture in its efforts to obtain testimony from Chelsea Manning. The accusation was made in a letter written by Nils Melzer in November, although it was only released on December 31. Melzer is a special UN rapporteur on torture.
The accusation comes just days after another top UN official, Andrew Gilmour, issued a separate statement discussing the global backlash we’ve seen in the past decade when it comes to human rights. Gilmour, who is leaving the United Nations after a 31 year career there, most recently served as the secretary-general for human rights. He makes special note of the decline in protections for women and LGBTQ people, and directs criticism regarding attacks on some of the most vulnerable groups in society toward “populist authoritarian nationalists” in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia.
In his statement Gilmour also made sure to note that more should be done when it comes to calling out major violations of international law and of human rights. Whether or not that call to action inspired the release of Melzer’s letter is unclear, but it certainly couldn’t have hurt. As Melzer notes in his letter, Manning has been the victim of “an open-ended, progressively severe measure of coercion fulfilling all the constitutive elements of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
Manning, detained on May 16th for her refusal to testify before a grand jury, is currently being held in the Alexandria Detention Center in Virginia where prosecutors hope they will apparently be able to torture her into testifying in a trial to convict Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks. She was originally sentenced to 35 years in military prison for her involvement in WikiLeaks before President Obama commuted her sentence in 2017.
Going hand-in-hand with the scientifically verified conclusion that torture doesn’t work, Manning’s lawyers issued a statement when she was re-imprisoned pointing to Chelsea’s “moral objection to the secretive and oppressive grand jury process” noting that if they “believe that subjecting Chelsea to more punishment will change her mind, they are gravely mistaken.” It’s unlikely that Melzer’s accusation will do anything to help Manning, considering the United States’ current relationship with the UN, but wider attention being drawn to the injustices she’s suffering will hopefully bolster support for her case.