GENEVA -- The United Nations' torture investigator on Tuesday accused the United States of violating U.N. rules by refusing him unfettered access to the Army private accused of passing classified documents to WikiLeaks.
Juan Mendez, the U.N.'s special rapporteur for torture, said he can't do his job unless he has unmonitored access to detainees. He said the U.S. military's insistence on monitoring conversations with Bradley Manning "violates long-standing rules" the U.N. follows for visits to inmates.
Manning has been detained by the U.S. military for most of the past year in a case pitting the U.S. government against advocates of transparency in government. The Army private stands accused of being the source of a trove of sensitive documents about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
He was transferred to a Kansas military prison in April after being confined alone in a cell for 23 hours a day in a Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Virginia, for eight months after his arrest. He faces about two dozen charges, including aiding the enemy. That charge can bring the death penalty or life in prison.
Mendez said the U.S. government assured him Manning is better treated now than he was in Quantico, but the government must allow the U.N. investigator to check that for himself.
Mendez said he needs to assess whether the conditions Manning experienced amounted to "torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" while at Quantico.
"For that, it is imperative that I talk to Mr. Manning under conditions where I can be assured that he is being absolutely candid," Mendez said.
Pentagon officials have consistently said Manning was being held under appropriate conditions given the seriousness of the charges against him.