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U.N. Official Says U.S. Is Breaking Rules In Torture Investigation

The United Nations chief torture investigator said the United States was violating U.N. rules, after the country denied him unmonitored access to Bradley Manning, the Army private charged with leaking among other things classified diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks.

Last April, as we reported, the U.N.'s Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendéz expressed similar concerns, saying the United States would only allow a "private" visit rather than an "official" visit and also denied him the chance to visit Manning unsupervised.

Méndez, who is investigating complaints about Manning's treatment, made those comments in April to The Guardian. This time, as the U.N.'s news service reports, he's making them officially and saying the U.S. is breaking long-held U.N. rules when it comes to the investigation of torture. The U.N. reports:

At the request of Mr. Méndez and after several meetings, the US Department of Defense allowed him to visit Mr. Manning, but warned him that the conversation would be monitored.

He said such a condition violated long-standing rules that the UN applies for prison visits and for interviews with inmates everywhere in the world. On humanitarian grounds and under protest, Mr. Méndez, through Mr. Manning's counsel, offered to visit him under these restrictive conditions, an offer the detainee declined.

Mr. Méndez has, since the beginning of this year, been in negotiations with the US Government over unrestricted access to Mr. Manning, but he was last month informed that the Government was not in a position to accede to the request for a private and unmonitored meeting.

The United States moved Manning to a Kansas military prison in April, after the country held him in solitary confinement for 23-hours a day in a Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Virgina.

Méndez said the U.S. had assured him Manning's treatment is "markedly better" in Kansas. But, Méndez said, he needs to talk to Manning under conditions "where I can be assured that he is being absolutely candid."

"The United States, as a world leader, is a strong supporter of the international human rights system," he added. "Therefore, its actions must seek to set the pace in good practices that enhance the role of human rights mechanisms, ensuring and maintaining unfettered access to detainees during enquiries."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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