Exactly one year after Chelsea Manning was convicted of leaking classified government material, Amnesty International is renewing its call on the US authorities to grant her clemency, release her immediately, and to urgently investigate the potential human rights violations exposed by the leaks.
Chelsea Manning has spent the last year as a convicted criminal after exposing information which included evidence of potential human rights violations and breaches of international law. By disseminating classified information via Wikileaks she revealed to the world abuses perpetrated by the US army, military contractors and Iraqi and Afghan troops operating alongside US forces.
“It is an absolute outrage that Chelsea Manning is currently languishing behind bars whilst those she helped to expose, who are potentially guilty of human rights violations, enjoy impunity,” said Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas Director Amnesty International.
“The US government must grant Chelsea Manning clemency, order her immediate release, and implement a thorough and impartial investigation into the crimes she uncovered.”
After being convicted of 20 separate charges Chelsea Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison, much longer than other members of the military convicted of charges such as murder, rape and war crimes.
Before her conviction, Chelsea Manning had already been held for three years in pre-trial detention, including 11 months in conditions which the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture described as cruel and inhumane.
Chelsea Manning has always maintained that her motivation for releasing the documents to Wikileaks was out of concern for the public and to foster a meaningful debate on the costs of war and the conduct of the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Notable amongst the information revealed by Private Manning was previously unseen footage of journalists and other civilians being killed in US helicopter attacks.
Chelsea Manning is now actively engaged with her lawyers in fighting her conviction.
“The US government appears to have its priorities warped. It is sending a worrying message through its harsh punishment of Chelsea Manning that whistleblowers will not be tolerated. On the other hand, its failure to investigate allegations that arose from Chelsea Manning’s disclosures means that those potentially responsible for crimes under international law, including torture and enforced disappearances, may get away scot-free,” said Erika Guevara.
“One year after the conviction of Chelsea Manning we are still calling on the US government to grant her clemency in recognition of her motives for acting as she did, and the time she has already served in prison.”
Amnesty International has previously expressed concern that a sentence of 35 years in jail was excessive and should have been commuted to time served. The organization believes that Chelsea Manning was overcharged using antiquated legislation aimed at dealing with treason, and denied the opportunity to use a public interest defence at her trial.
In addition, there is little protection in US law for genuine whistleblowers, and this case underlines the need for the US to strengthen protections for those who reveal information that the public has the right to know.
It is crucial that the US government stops using the Espionage Act to prosecute whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning.