With less than a week left in his term, President Obama commuted the sentence of Chelsea Manning today. Manning had been serving a 35-year sentence in a maximum security prison after releasing information pointing to potential crimes by the U.S. military.
Manning, who has been in jail for nearly seven years, will be freed on 17 May this year. Amnesty International has campaigned for her release for several years and just last week we called on President Obama to leave a human rights legacy by granting clemency for Chelsea Manning, closing Guantánamo Bay, pardoning Edward Snowden and finally releasing Native American activist Leonard Peltier.
“Chelsea Manning exposed serious abuses, and as a result her own human rights have been violated by the U.S. government for years,” said Margaret Huang, executive director of Amnesty International USA.
“President Obama was right to commute her sentence, but it is long overdue. It is unconscionable that she languished in prison for years while those allegedly implicated by the information she revealed still haven’t been brought to justice.”
“Instead of punishing the messenger, the U.S. government can send a strong signal to the world that it is serious about investigating the human rights violations exposed by the leaks”Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International
Manning was not able to present evidence that she had been acting in the public interest along with other due process issues at trial and was held in pre-trial detention for 11 months in conditions that the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture deemed to be cruel, inhuman and degrading. Manning was put in solitary confinement after a suicide attempt while serving her sentence.
Additionally, Manning, who began her gender transition following her sentencing, has been denied critical and appropriate treatment related to her gender identity at various points during her incarceration.
Manning’s sentence of 35 years was much longer than other members of the military convicted of charges such as murder, rape and war crimes, as well as any others who were convicted of leaking classified materials to the public.
“Instead of punishing the messenger, the U.S. government can send a strong signal to the world that it is serious about investigating the human rights violations exposed by the leaks and bringing all those suspected of criminal responsible to justice in fair trials,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.
Amnesty International Australia welcomes the news and is calling upon President Obama to use his executive powers during his remaining days to pardon whistleblower Edward Snowden.