U.S. Must Commute Bradley Manning Sentence and Investigate the Abuses He Exposed

Press Release
August 21, 2013

U.S. Must Commute Bradley Manning Sentence and Investigate the Abuses He Exposed

Contact: Carol Gregory, cgregory@aiusa.org, 202-675-8759, @AIUSAmedia

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - President Obama should commute U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning's sentence to time already served to allow his immediate release, Amnesty International said today.

Military judge Col. Denise Lind today sentenced the Wikileaks source to 35 years in military prison - out of a possible 90 - for leaking reams of classified information. He has already served more than three years in pre-trial detention, including 11 months in conditions described by the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture as cruel and inhumane.

"Bradley Manning acted on the belief that he could spark a meaningful public debate on the costs of war, and specifically on the conduct of the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan," said Widney Brown, Senior Director of International Law and Policy at Amnesty International. "His revelations included reports on battlefield detentions and previously unseen footage of journalists and other civilians being killed in U.S. helicopter attacks, information which should always have been subject to public scrutiny."

"Instead of fighting tooth and nail to lock him up for decades, the U.S. government should turn its attention to investigating and delivering justice for the serious human rights abuses committed by its officials in the name of countering terror."

Some of the materials Manning leaked, published by Wikileaks, pointed to potential human rights violations and breaches of international humanitarian law by U.S. troops abroad, by Iraqi and Afghan forces operating alongside U.S. forces, and by military contractors. Yet the judge had ruled before the trial that Private Manning would not be able to defend himself by presenting evidence that he was acting in the public interest.

"Manning had already pleaded guilty to leaking information, so for the U.S. to have continued prosecuting him under the Espionage Act, even charging him with 'aiding the enemy,' can only be seen as a harsh warning to anyone else tempted to expose government wrongdoing," said Brown. "More than anything else, the case shows the urgent need to reform the U.S.'s antiquated Espionage Act and strengthen protections for those who reveal information that the public has a need and a right to know."

Manning's defence counsel is expected to file a petition for clemency shortly with the U.S. Department of Justice office that reviews requests for pardons and other acts of clemency before passing them on to the President for a final decision. Such requests are normally made after all appeals are exhausted, but the President may grant clemency at any time.

"Bradley Manning should be shown clemency in recognition of his motives for acting as he did, the treatment he endured in his early pre-trial detention, and the due process shortcomings during his trial," said Brown. "The President doesn’t need to wait for this sentence to be appealed to commute it; he can and should do so right now."

Amnesty International has experts able to discuss the case of U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning, who is expected to be sentenced today at a military trial in the USA for leaking classified information.

Amnesty's experts on his case are available for interview from New York, Berlin and London:

  • Justin Mazzola, who was Amnesty's observer at the military trial
  • Widney Brown, Senior Director of Law and Policy
  • Anne Fitzgerald, Director of Research and Crisis Response

Amnesty International is joining the Bradley Manning Support Network to petition President Barack Obama to grant Manning a commutation to time served.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.