2011-02-01 Bradley Manning's dual citizenship eligibility and the law [Update 1]

The conditions of Private Manning's confinement have been widely reported. Not surprisingly, on January 24, Amnesty International called on US authorities "to alleviate the harsh pre-trial detention conditions of Bradley Manning."

As we also reported here, Psychologists for Social Responsibility have joined the call for Manning's humane treatment in an open letter to Robert Gates, which calls upon him "to rectify the inhumane, harmful, and counterproductive treatment of PFC Bradley Manning immediately."

Amnesty International is now calling on British authorities to intervene on behalf of Private Manning on the basis that Manning may be a British citizen.

In a statement e-mailed to The Associated Press, Amnesty International's U.K. Director Kate Allen said Manning's background meant that British officials "should be demanding that the conditions of his detention are in line with international standards."

Manning is very likely, in fact, eligible for dual citizenship by law. Manning's status as a potential UK national was first reported here, where it is pointed out that his mother, Susan Manning, is a UK citizen, having been born in the UK. As was pointed out here, however, things are not so simple in terms of international law.

According to the Master Nationality Rule, discussed in this pdf document (in Section 3.3), “when a dual citizen is in the country of one of his two nationalities, that country has the right to treat that person as if he or she were solely a citizen or national of that country. This includes the right to impose military service obligations, or to require an exit permit to leave.” This seems to clearly entail that the UK is not under any obligation to defend Manning.

However, note that according to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London, the British Consulate may intervene in certain cases in which a UK national is imprisoned abroad. According to the FCO, although dual nationality does not guarantee any privileges while a UK citizen is in the other nation of his/her other nationality (in this case, the United States), there is nevertheless the possibility of British intervention.

If you are a dual national traveling in the state of your other nationality we would not normally offer you support or get involved in dealings between you and the authorities of that state. We may make an exception if, having looked at the circumstances of the case, we consider that there is a special humanitarian reason to do so. (My emphasis)

Whether the UK decides to intervene in the event that Manning should apply for British citizenship will therefore depend on its interpretation of "humanitarian reasons." It should be noted, however, that in the case of Guantanamo inmate David Matthew Hicks, who "applied for British citizenship in 2005" while detained without trial, UK citizenship status was not sufficient to warrant any help from UK authorities. In fact, the British government revoked his British citizenship only hours after it had been granted and did so under section 56 of the Immigration, Asylum And Nationality Act 2006, which allows allowing the Home Secretary to “deprive a person of a citizenship status if the Secretary of State is satisfied that deprivation is conducive to the public good.”

Further interpretive issues arise, then, with regard to the notion of "public good", which appears broad enough to be deemed logically and legally consistent with any decision made by the UK in the case of Bradley Manning. Pending further analysis, the question seems to rest on purely moral grounds at the moment, given the vagueness and ambiguity plaguing the existing terms.

Update 1:
It was confirmed by Private Manning's lawyer, David Coombs, that Manning does not currently hold dual UK/US citizenship. It was also reported that this "deflates an effort by Amnesty International to get British authorities involved in a dispute over the conditions of Pfc. Bradley Manning's pretrial confinement."

This line of argument may be misleading, however. Obtaining future assistance from the UK is not contingent on whether Manning is presently a UK national, but on whether he is eligible to be one. If he is eligible, and it seems clear that he may be, then he need only apply for citizenship, as David Matthew Hicks did while in confinement in Guantanamo Bay.

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