Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for April 15, 2011

Newsline: UN diplomat denied unmonitored meeting with WikiLeaks suspect

A United Nations diplomat charged with investigating claims of torture said that he is “deeply disappointed and frustrated” that U.S. defence officials have refused his request for an unmonitored visit with Pfc. Bradley Manning, the intelligence analyst accused of passing classified material to WikiLeaks. Juan Mendez, the UN special rapporteur on torture, said that his request for a private interview with Manning was denied by the Defense Department. Instead, he has been told that any visit must be supervised. Mendez has been seeking to determine whether Manning’s confinement at a military brig atQuantico,Va., amounts to torture following complaints about his treatment and an incident in which the private was forced to strip in his cell at night and sleep without clothing. “My request. … is not onerous: for my part, a monitored conversation would not comply with the practices that my mandate applies in every country and detention centre visited,” Mendez said, nothing that at least 18 countries have allowed such interviews. Manning, 23, has been held at Quantico since July 29 and is awaiting a possible court-martial on charges that he endangered national security by allegedly leaking classified military and diplomatic information. For most of this time, military officials have kept Manning under “prevention of injury” watch, asserting that he poses a risk to himself. That means he spends 23 hours a day alone in his cell, with one hour allowed for exercise, and has no contact with other prisoners. He is allowed visitors for a few hours on the weekends. He must give up his prison uniform at night, though jail officials have now issued him a smock to wear. U.S. officials have denied that Manning is being mistreated and have said that the circumstances of his confinement comply in all respects with U.S. law and Defense Department regulations. Last month, however, P.J. Crowley, then the spokesman for the State Department, said the conditions of Manning’s confinement were “counterproductive and stupid” — a comment that angered the White House and prompted Crowley’s resignation. The New York Review of Books published a letter signed by more than 250 lawyers, professors and authors, including Harvard University professor Laurence Tribe, that called the conditions of Manning’s confinement “illegal and immoral.” The British government has also raised concerns over the issue.



Newsline: US nominates defense official as Myanmar envoy

President Barrack Obama nominated a defense official asU.S.special envoy toMyanmarwith the tough job of negotiating with its military-dominated government and pushing for reform. Derek Mitchell will have the rank of a State Department ambassador if confirmed by the Senate in the position, which was mandated in 2008 legislation but has yet to be filled. Mitchell, aChinascholar with wide experience inAsia, is principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs. Early in his career, he worked on the foreign policy staff of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., and then for a Taiwanese newspaper, China Post. He has also held positions at Washington-based think tanks, including the Center for Strategic and International Studies. As special representative and policy coordinator forBurma, asMyanmaris also known, Mitchell would be charged with speaking with the government and opposition leaders, coordinatingU.S.policy and working with the international community.