Tag Archives: Nils Melzer

Statement From Chelsea Manning’s Legal Team: Ms. Manning is Recovering in Hospital, Scheduled to Appear in Court Friday

Statement From Chelsea Manning’s Legal Team: Ms. Manning is Recovering in Hospital, Scheduled to Appear in Court Friday

Alexandria, VA — On Wednesday, March 11, 2020, Chelsea Manning attempted to take her own life. She was taken to a hospital and is currently recovering. 

Ms. Manning is still scheduled to appear on Friday for a previously-calendared hearing, at which Judge Anthony Trenga will rule on a motion to terminate the civil contempt sanctions stemming from her May, 2019 refusal to give testimony before a grand jury investigating the publication of her 2010 disclosures. 

In spite of those sanctions — which have so far included over a year of so-called “coercive” incarceration and nearly half a million dollars in threatened fines — she remains unwavering in her refusal to participate in a secret grand jury process that she sees as highly susceptible to abuse.   

Ms. Manning has previously indicated that she will not betray her principles, even at risk of grave harm to herself. 

Writing in a 2019 letter to Judge Trenga, Ms. Manning said: “I object to this grand jury … as an effort to frighten journalists and publishers, who serve a crucial public good. I have had these values since I was a child, and I’ve had years of confinement to reflect on them. For much of that time, I depended for survival on my values, my decisions, and my conscience. I will not abandon them now.” 

Her actions today evidence the strength of her convictions, as well as the profound harm she continues to suffer as a result of her ‘civil’ confinement — a coercive practice that the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, recently said violates international law. 

Prior to her current incarceration, Ms. Manning served seven years in a military prison under unusually difficult conditions, including eleven months of solitary confinement. 

For more information about Chelsea’s ongoing legal situation visit: https://ReleaseChelsea.com

Read Chelsea’s letter to Judge Anthony Trenga HERE

Read more about the UN Rapporteur on Torture’s letter calling for her release HERE

Those interested can send letters and words of encouragement to Chelsea at the following mailing address:    

Chelsea Elizabeth Manning
William G. Truesdale Adult Detention Center
2001 Mill Road
Alexandria, VA 22314

Legal Team Files Motion to Release Chelsea Manning

Legal Team Files Motion to Release Chelsea Manning

Alexandria, VA — Today, attorney Moira Meltzer-Cohen filed a Motion to Release Chelsea Manning, based on evidence, including an expert’s assessment of Chelsea’s personality profile, and a public condemnation of her “coercive confinement” by Nils Melzer, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. 

Ms. Manning has now been incarcerated at Alexandria Detention Center for nearly a year, due to her principled refusal to testify before a federal grand jury investigating the publishers of her 2010 disclosures. She may be held for up to 18 months or until she agrees to cooperate. She is also fined $1,000 for each day she refuses to testify, those fines now total approximately $230,000.

According to Moira Meltzer-Cohen, Ms. Manning’s attorney:

“A witness who refuses to cooperate with a grand jury subpoena may be held in contempt of court, and fined or incarcerated. The only permissible purpose for sanctions under the civil contempt statute is to coerce a witness to comply with the subpoena. If compliance is impossible, either because the grand jury is no longer in existence, or because the witness is incoercible, then confinement has been transformed from a coercive into a punitive sanction, and thus is in violation of the law.”

As Ms. Manning explains: 

“My refusal to testify continues, predicated on my long standing belief that grand juries, as they function in the contemporary era, are often used by federal prosecutors to harass and disrupt political opponents and activists through secrecy, coercion, and jailing without trial. 

“My own current confinement reinforces my belief in their tendency to be abused in practice. I cannot agree to participate in such a process. No matter how much you punish me, I will remain confident in my decision. I have been separated from my loved ones, deprived of sunlight, and could not even attend my mother’s funeral. It is easier to endure these hardships now than to cooperate to win back some comfort, and live the rest of my life knowing that I acted out of self interest and not principle.” 

Today’s filing includes a personality assessment by Dr. Sara Boyd, suggesting that Ms. Manning is constitutionally incapable of acting against her conscience. “Ms. Manning exhibits long standing personality features that relate to her scrupulousness, her persistence and dedication, and her willingness to endure social disapproval as well as formal punishments,” it reads. “Ms. Manning … has not wavered in this decision-making regarding cooperation for the past [eleven] months and she did not make any statements indicating that… there was any information that could be provided to her that would change her mind.” This report provides yet more evidence that Ms. Manning will not be moved by confinement, and must therefore be released. 

Also included in the brief is a letter dated November 1, 2019, from U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer, who concludes that the practice of coercive confinement constitutes “torture” in violation of international laws ratified by the United States. S.R. Melzer recommends that Chelsea be released “without further delay” and that her fines be “cancelled or reimbursed” since they are impermissibly punitive, being “disproportionate to the gravity of any offence she may have committed.”

“The key issue before Judge Trenga is whether continued incarceration could persuade Chelsea to testify,” said Ms. Meltzer-Cohen. “Judges have complained of the ‘perversity’ of this law: that a witness may win their freedom by persisting in their contempt of court. However, should Judge Trenga agree that Chelsea will never agree to testify, he will be compelled by the law to order her release.

“The evidence overwhelmingly supports the claim we have made from the beginning: Ms. Manning cannot be pressured into betraying her principles. If her confinement is not having a coercive impact, it has exceeded its permissible scope, and Ms. Manning must be released.”

Many organizations have come out in support of Chelsea and her principled stance, including: Amnesty International, Fight for the Future, Internet Archive, Defending Rights & Dissent, Media Alliance, Oakland Privacy, Freedom of the Press Foundation, Queerious Labs, Demand Progress, RootsAction, and Lucy Parsons Labs. Likewise, many friends and family made public statements or submitted letters of support to the judge in her case, Judge Anthony Trenga, including:  Daniel Ellsberg, Michael Stipe, Thurston Moore and many others.

As of the time of this statement, a petition launched by Fight for the Future at FreeChelsea.com demanding that Chelsea be released has garnered a significant demonstration of public support, with more than 60,000 signatures

For more information, Frequently Asked Questions, Legal Precedents, and a complete archive of statements from Chelsea, including her letter to Judge Anthony Trenga explaining the history of Grand juries and her objections to them, see the new website at ReleaseChelsea.com.

A Note to Editors

Chelsea Manning is represented by Moira Meltzer-Cohen, appellate attorney Vincent Ward, and local counsel Chris Leibig and Sandra Freeman.


Motion to Release Chelsea Manning https://www.releasechelsea.com/resources/legal_documents/motion_to_release

More than 60,000 people call for judge to release Chelsea Manning, Press Release  https://tumblr.fightforthefuture.org/post/190901492383/more-than-60000-people-call-for-judge-to-release

What’s the difference between coercive and punitive incarceration? https://www.releasechelsea.com/faq/b/

How does a judge determine whether a witness is incoercible?  https://www.releasechelsea.com/faq/c/

What factors are used by the judge to make an “individualized determination” regarding the intransigence of the witness? https://www.releasechelsea.com/faq/d/

How have grand juries and contempt sanctions been used or abused in the past? https://www.releasechelsea.com/faq/g/

Chelsea Manning Responds to United Nations Rapporteur’s Call For Her Release – UN Special Rapporteur on Torture: Release Chelsea Manning immediately, January 2, 2020 https://www.sparrowmedia.net/2020/01/chelsea-manning-responds-to-united-nations-rapporteurs-call-for-her-release/

Letter to the US Government: Mandate of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, by Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, November 1, 2019

Executive Summary: Memorandum of Law in Support of Motion to Release, by Kelly Wright (Motion filed May 6, 2019) https://www.releasechelsea.com/resources/executive-summary/

Organizations Supporting Chelsea Manning https://www.releasechelsea.com/organizations_supporting_chelsea/

Individuals Supporting Chelsea Manning  https://www.releasechelsea.com/individuals_supporting_chelsea

Chelsea Manning

Chelsea Manning Responds to United Nations Rapporteur’s Call For Her Release

UN Special Rapporteur on Torture: Release Chelsea Manning immediately

Alexandria, VA — This week Nils Melzer, the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment published a letter to the U.S. government dated November 1, 2019, condemning the incarceration of Chelsea Manning, calling such coercive confinement “torture” in violation of international law, and recommending her immediate release. He also recommends that any disproportionate fines levied against her be cancelled. The letter was made public following a customary 60-day window pending any government response.

Said S.R. Melzer:

“…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.”

The letter was announced by Melzer via Twitter late December 30, 2019, stating:

“…the 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”

In the letter, Melzer also 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.” He added that “victims of prolonged coercive confinement have demonstrated post-traumatic symptoms and other severe and persistent mental and physical health consequences.” 

According to Ms. Manning:

“My long-standing objection to the immoral practice of throwing people in jail without charge or trial, for the sole purpose of forcing them to testify before a secret, government-run investigative panel, remains strong. 

“Nearly every other legal system in the world condemns coercive confinement, and long ago replaced secret grand juries with public hearings. I am thrilled to see the practice of coercive confinement called out for what it is: incompatible with international human rights standards. Regardless, even knowing I am very likely to stay in jail for an even longer time, I’m never backing down.” 

Moira Meltzer-Cohen, Manning’s attorney, said:

“Special Rapporteur Melzer has issued a legally rigorous condemnation of the practice of coercive confinement, and of Ms. Manning’s confinement in particular. While the United States has so far failed to live up to its human rights obligations, I remain hopeful that the government will reconsider its policies in light of the UN’s admonition. 

“In any case, there can be no further doubt that Ms. Manning has the courage of her convictions, and will never agree to testify before a grand jury, even at great personal cost. As S.R. Melzer notes, since her confinement is not having the intended coercive effect, she must be released.” 

Although S.R. Melzer has requested a clarifying response from the United States, he makes clear his settled conclusion that the practice of coercive confinement violates international human rights law, and recommends Ms. Manning’s immediate release pending any response or investigation. In the two months since the letter was conveyed to the United States, Ms. Manning has remained confined, and the daily fines imposed upon her have continued to accrue.

A Note to Editors

1. Definition of “torture” — as outlined in Article one of the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), as described by S.R. Nils Melzer in his letter

“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, in the letter, on page 2, that he does not think such practices fall under CAT’s “lawful sanctions” exception.

2. List of international human rights laws that the U.S. practice of coercive confinement is in violation of, as described by S.R. Nils Melzer in his letter:

  • Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) (Articles 1, 2, 15 and 16)

  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR); ratified by the United States of America in 1994 and 1992 respectively (Articles 2, 7 and 9)

  • Human Rights Council Resolution 16/23

  • Human Rights Council Resolution 34/19

  • Human Rights Council Resolution 25/13

  • General Assembly Resolution 68/156