I was reminded of that old saw yesterday on reading the NY Times report of the complaint that Pfc. Bradley Manning (the Army intelligence analyst accused of leaking US government files to WikiLeaks) was stripped and left naked in his cell for seven hours on Wednesday.
The Times notes that the conditions of Private Manning’s confinement in the Marine brig in Quantico have drawn criticism over several months.
Manning's lawyer is reported as indicating that the soldier's clothing was returned to him on Thursday morning after he was required to stand naked outside his cell during an inspection.
This type of degrading treatment is inexcusable and without justification. It is an embarrassment to our military justice system and should not be tolerated. Pfc. Manning has been told that the same thing will happen to him again tonight. No other detainee at the brig is forced to endure this type of isolation and humiliation.The Times goes on to report that a Marine spokesman said -
a brig duty supervisor had ordered Private Manning’s clothing taken from him. He said that the step was "not punitive" and that it was in accordance with brig rules, but he said that he was not allowed to say more.We might question the appropriate of brig rules that allow prisoners to be kept 'in the buff' ... and go on to ask whether there are similar rules in Australian military law and in Australian public/private incarceration institutions. Presumably there are ... and privacy would be one response if information was sought regarding the treatment of individuals. How many Australians in custody are left without their y-fronts for a day or so ... and if the rationale is prevention of self-harm, should we consider medication rather than removal of what might be used for a noose?
"It would be inappropriate for me to explain it", Lieutenant Villiard said. "I can confirm that it did happen, but I can't explain it to you without violating the detainee's privacy."
The Times notes that Manning is being held as a maximum security detainee "under a special set of restrictions intended to prevent self-injury, even though supporters say there is no evidence that he is suicidal".
During an appearance on MSNBC earlier on Thursday, Geoffrey Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary, attributed the general conditions of Private Manning’s confinement to "the seriousness of the charges he’s facing, the potential length of sentence, the national security implications" and to protect him from potential harm.The effectiveness of that protection is uncertain -
one of Private Manning’s friends, David House, said in a conference call with reporters that he had visited the soldier the previous weekend and that his mental condition was severely deteriorating as a result of being confined to his cell 23 hours a day, with one hour to exercise in an empty room, and largely isolated from human contact. ... House said that Private Manning did not seem suicidal and contended that he was being pressured to cooperate.On Wednesday the US Army announced 22 additional charges against Manning, including "aiding the enemy", although at the time there was no indication as to the identity of that "enemy” (subsequently glossed as any hostile forces that could benefit from learning classified military tactics and procedures).