The UN's expert on torture Nils Melzer has described US Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning's recent suicide attempt as a "typical" act of desperation for someone subjected to "prolonged psychological torture". Melzer's comments were made via Twitter on 12 March 2020, the day after Manning's failed attempt to take her own life. She had previously attempted suicide in 2016 while serving a 35 year prison sentence for her whistleblowing activities, though her sentenced was later commuted by US president Barack Obama.
After speaking to @xychelsea's lawyers: Her state was critical but stable now.— Nils Melzer (@NilsMelzer) March 12, 2020
Such acts of desperation are typical for the confusion, dehumanisation & suffering deliberately inflicted through prolonged #PsychologicalTorture (https://t.co/azqzjMO7bI).https://t.co/cwpKtYRd5n
The former intelligence analyst was jailed in May 2019 and fined $500 a day, which eventually became $1,000 a day, for refusing to testify to a secret grand jury believed to be targeting WikiLeaks publisher and journalist Julian Assange.
DAY 365 of @xychelsea's incarceration, with $256,000 in fines. (March 12 2020)— Chelsea Manning (@SaveManning) March 12, 2020
Chelsea tried to take her own life yesterday (she's OK!) https://t.co/yEJ9gdva1C
The petition at https://t.co/0ORLZdVHgS just crossed 64,727 signatures - let's get it to 65,000! pic.twitter.com/iqMJMR07EM
Be in no doubt. The US/UK govts are trying to break Manning+Assange. They want to send a message: if you expose our crimes, we will destroy you. These prisoners are the frontline of battle to hold on to our freedom. Those who remain silent are complicit. https://t.co/t6XcI1hiIb— Matt Kennard (@DCKennard) March 12, 2020
The UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment had already notified US authorities in November 2019 that he considered Manning's treatment as unlawful and ultimately amounting to torture.
Just out: My official letter to #USGovt of 1 Nov 2019 explaining why continued detention of @xychelsea is not a lawful sanction but an open-ended, progressively severe coercive measure amounting to torture & should be discontinued & abolished without delay https://t.co/uhqKoFSQSq pic.twitter.com/J662CtVAA7— Nils Melzer (@NilsMelzer) December 31, 2019
On 1 November, UN special rapporteur @NilsMelzer called on the US government to end Chelsea Manning's "coercive detention" without delay and categorised it as "torture". He got no response. https://t.co/eLUiowEHqm— Ian Fraser (@Ian_Fraser) March 12, 2020
After watching the new documentary Eminent Monsters: A manual for modern torture, Melzer was moved to produce a report which specifically focused on the practice of psychological torture. He presented this report to the UN's Human Rights Council on 28 February 2020.
Just out:— Nils Melzer (@NilsMelzer) February 24, 2020
Advance copy of my Report on #PsychologicalTorture which I will present to the UN Human Rights Council plenary on 28 February.
For full text scroll down & click on A/HRC/43/49 here:https://t.co/uaOXxmLEOz#SRTorture #HRC43 @UN_HRC @UN_SPExperts @UNHumanRights pic.twitter.com/iU6XE3ZG2V
"In contrast to physical torture, which uses the body and its physiological needs as a conduit for affecting the victim’s mind and emotions, psychological torture does so by directly targeting basic psychological needs, such as security, self-determination, dignity and identity, environmental orientation, emotional rapport, and communal trust".
He describes the "purposeful infliction of fear" as the "most rudimentary method of psychological torture".
"The extreme psychological distress and enormous inner conflicts triggered by fear are often underestimated. In reality, especially the prolonged experience of fear can be more debilitating and agonizing than the actual materialization of that fear, and even the experience of physical torture can be experienced as less traumatizing than the indefinite psychological torment of constant fear and anxiety", he explains.
Chelsea Manning is recovering in hospital according to a statement from her lawyers. She's due to appear before Judge Anthony Trenga who will decide whether to stop the civil contempt sanctions against her which began in May 2019.
The former US Army whistleblower passed on thousands of documents to WikiLeaks and Assange which ultimately made up the Iraq and Afghanistan War logs, the Guantanamo Bay files, and the diplomatic cables. She was convicted by a military court on espionage related charges, though her 35 year sentence was commuted after she served seven years in prison. Assange is battling his extradition to the US for his role in publishing those documents were he faces up to 175 years in prison.