Chelsea hasn’t been accused of, let alone convicted of a crime, but she’s in jail anyway. Is this legal?
The United States allows for the use of “coercive confinement,” where someone can be put in jail until they agree to give testimony or a confession.
But most countries consider coercive confinement to be barbaric. In fact, Nils Melzer, the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, published a letter that he sent to the U.S. government on November 1, 2019, which condems the incarceration and the use of civil contempt sanctions to fine Chelsea Manning.
Here is a statement by Chelsea and her team about his letter and its implications.
As he explains in his letter, he considers such coercive attempts to be “torture” in violation of international law, and recommended that she be released immediately and that any disproportionate fines levied against her be cancelled.
From the letter:
“…I recommend that Ms. Manning’s current deprivation of liberty be promptly reviewed in light of the United States’ international human rights obligations. Should my assessment regarding its purely coercive purpose be accurate, I recommend that Ms. Manning be released without further delay, and that any fines disproportionate to the gravity of any offence she may have committed be cancelled or reimbursed.”
In the letter, Melzer condemns the United States’ practice of what he considers to be “prolonged coercive confinement” which “involves the intentional infliction of progressively severe mental and emotional suffering for the purposes of coercion and intimidation at the order of judicial authorities.” Adding that “victims of prolonged coercive confinement have demonstrated post-traumatic symptoms and other severe and persistent mental and physical health consequences.”
Regarding Chelsea's coercive confinement qualifying as “torture,” Melzer provides this definition of the relevant aspects of “torture,” taken from Article one of the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT):
“torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity, it does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions”. (Note: Melzer clarifies, on page 2, that he does not think such practices fall under the “lawful sanctions” exception of CAT's Article 1.)