UN torture expert accuses United States of torturing trans whistleblower Chelsea Manning

Chelsea Manning

A top UN official has accused the US of torturing Chelsea Manning, the transgender whistleblower who is being held in prison over her refusal to testify against WikiLeaks.

Manning, a former army intelligence officer, has been subjected to “an open-ended, progressively severe measure of coercion fulfilling all the constitutive elements of torture”, the UN expert said.

She was detained on 16 May after refusing to testify before a grand jury and is currently being held at the Alexandria detention centre in Virginia. She’ll be released if she agrees to give evidence or when the grand jury’s term expires in November next year.

Nils Melzer, the UN special rapporteur on torture, levelled accusations of torture at the US in a November letter that was released on New Year’s Eve.

Manning’s “coercive imprisonment” – which includes being fined $1,000 per day by the US government – “should be discontinued or abolished without delay”, Melzer said.

“The practise of coercive deprivation of liberty for civil contempt … involves the intentional infliction of progressively severe mental and emotional suffering for the purposes of coercion and intimidation at the order of judicial authorities,” he wrote.

Melzer also warned that “victims of prolonged coercive confinement have demonstrated post-traumatic symptoms and other severe and persistent mental and physical health consequences”.

The letter also asks that the US provide grounds for Manning’s ongoing imprisonment and fines, “especially after her categorical and persistent refusal to give testimony demonstrates the lack of their coercive effect.”

Her supporters and legal team have long stressed that no such grounds exist, according to The Intercept.

In a statement from jail, Chelsea Manning said: “I am thrilled to see the practice of coercive confinement called out for what it is: incompatible with international human rights standards.”

On the same day that the letter was released, Manning tweeted that she had spent more than half of the past decade fighting for gender-affirming healthcare.