Interview (2) with Nancy Hollander, Chelsea’s Appeal Lawyer, 10th Dec 2014

Below is a pro tem translation of an article which appeared in Pikara Online Magazine on Human Rights Day, 10th Dec 2014, when Nancy Hollander visited Spain with Amnesty International in support of both Chelsea Manning and her Guantanamo clients.

Amnesty International in Spain are having a particular drive to raise awareness of Chelsea’s case at the moment (Dec 2014); they have also arranged a speaking tour with Alexa O’Brien.

The article – an interview – appears in Spanish, and I have ‘translated’ it to proper English from google translate. If anyone reading it speaks Spanish and wants to correct anything, please let us know!  The original is here

You can read another interview with Nancy Hollander in Spain on 8th Dec here

Oh, and, Chelsea urgently needs funds for the work being done on those appeals. Donate here! Please!

“Chelsea Manning is a survivor, but she has paid dearly for embarrassing the US government”

Nancy Hollander, attorney for the American ex-soldier sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking classified revealing documents human rights violations, talks about the situation of her client in jail, who is suing to be able to continue the process of gender transition. 

chelsea nancy hollander in spain with amnesty

Nancy Hollander is slight and elegant with small eyes. When opened, you can see they are a pure blue colour. I wonder how it must feel when those eyes are closed in bed after a day of fighting against the darkness of injustice and corruption?

Nancy Hollander is one of the most prominent lawyers in the United States right now and acts for Guantanamo detainees. She also represents the American soldier Chelsea Manning in her appeals against a 35 year sentence for leaking classified documents that reveal human rights violations committed by the US government.

Hollander has come to Spain accompanied by Amnesty International to campaign for her client, on the occasion of 10 December, Human Rights Day. The organization has adopted the case, amongst others, of Chelsea Manning, a transgender woman who has applied for hormonal treatment in prison.

How is Chelsea now?

Now it feels OK in the current prison; she feels safe. She is no longer handcuffed, has a cell to herself where she can work, have her papers, write, and call her lawyers. She is a survivor, but it is still far too high a price to pay just for embarrassing the government.

What’s happening in the case at the moment – what is the process?

We continue calling for clemency but do not know what will happen. The appeal is a lengthy process: the arguments are heard, new documents are presented … But if we lose we will go to another court, and then another. And we will not stop unless we run out of courts to draw upon.

Although before Chelsea was even arrested the army itself diagnosed her with “gender dysphoria”, she is not receiving the hormonal treatment she has requested in prison; how is she dealing with this?

She has filed a suit against the army for their failure to provide appropriate treatment. The military says this is impossible for security reasons. You are allowed to wear women’s underwear, but that’s it. If there has been no change by January, we will request a hearing. She isn’t asking for a sex change operation or to move to a women’s prison, but to receive the hormonal treatment, and to wear women’s clothes and grow her hair long.

In the army other soldiers were aware that Manning was transgender, but she was urged to keep silent about this and her colleagues treated her with contempt – how does she feel in jail with the other prisoners?

Well, Chelsea believes that many of the residents have a friendly attitude to her. Not so with prison officials, but Chelsea believes that the opinion of most prisoners is that she has been brave to do what she has done and they respect that.

Do you think she regrets having taken the decision to release all those documents?

No, I think not. In my opinion she was not aware of everything that was going to happen when she decided to reveal all your documents, but she no regrets; rather she considers that you wouldn’t want to live your life thinking you should have done something but did not. She was very brave and is proud of the action she took. And she has reason to be.


Another reason for the visit to Spain by Nancy Hollander is to ask the Spanish authorities to receive more former Guantanamo detainees.

She knows the military base, and describes how she has many times visited the place where the relatives of soldiers and prisoners can eat at a MacDonalds and get a coffee from Starbucks before entering one of the scariest and most secret detention centres in contemporary history; a place that is still considered a legal limbo. Amnesty International and other organizations have denounced the systematic torture and ill-treatment of detainees.

Another client, Mohamedou Ould Slahi, is one of the prisoners who reported more torture at Guantanamo; what is the status of his case?

He has never been charged with a recognizably criminal offence and they should just let him leave. Now they are not torturing him – he gets three meals a day – but his situation is untenable. The government has had plenty of time to try to “build” a case and has failed, so it is time for justice to be done. We need to visit him every two months to make sure he’s okay, because Chelsea Manning, for instance, can call me, but from Guantánamo you are only entitled to communicate with anyone outside – and that’s only to your family – once or twice a year, through the Red Cross.

I can only communicate with him when I visit. I can also write, but the letters pass through Washington, are subjected to censorship, and take almost a month to reach their destination. And to pick up mail I get from him or other detainees there, I have to go to Washington in person.

Chelsea Manning also was tortured while in prison in Virginia; has this affected her?

It’s sure to have left some mark, though she has been very brave. And there was no reason for such degrading treatment. Never really is.

One of the most incredible situations was when Chelsea told the social worker who visited her that if she wanted to commit suicide she could have done it with some of the objects she had: the elastic in the waste-band of her underwear, with her flip-flops etc. So they took everything she had. Later she discovered that it was that same social worker who signed the document that kept her under the suicide risk regime.

She had to spend all day standing, sometimes naked, unable to even lean against the wall. She could not exercise, or read, because if she got a book and at one point looked up they said, “oh, you’ve finished reading” and took it off her. She had nothing to do, nothing to think about, and was just going crazy with it.

The US Senate has just published a report on CIA torture of detainees following the attacks of September 11, do you think someone will be punished?

No one will be punished. The short answer is: zero.

The conviction and sentencing of Chelsea Manning reflects US government persecution against whistle-blowers by the administration’s use of the Espionage Act, a law of 1917 aimed at spies. Did you expect something different from President Obama?

I am very disappointed with Obama in many ways. There have been more people charged under the Espionage Act, there has been more use of drones and more deaths as a result, more people deported. And he has not closed Guantanamo nor has he pressed enough for this to happen. He has allowed the departure of some prisoners, but not enough.

Chelsea Manning’s case is actually something that can happen to anyone. Because you are not just dealing with the law, but how it is interpreted, and therefore anyone who troubles the interests of the United States can pay dearly. And Chelsea embarrassed the government. Neither the US government nor any other person was damaged by what she leaked, but the cables, the videos, the global impact that they had, embarrassed the administration. Her intention was not to hurt the United States, but to expose the violations of human rights that society needed to know about.

Are you hopeful about Manning’s case?

I always have hope. If I didn’t I would stop working. I keep pessimistic about my case in order to maintain awareness of everything that could go wrong, but I always have hope. It keeps me alert.

See more at:

NB More quotes from Nancy Hollander on Chelsea’s case in this Sputnik piece about Chelsea’s birthday – 17th Dec 2014

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