UN torture expert: End solitary confinement for people with mental disabilities everywhere

7 March 2012, Geneva and Budapest. The Mental Disability Advocacy Center welcomes the statement by Professor Juan Mendez, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, that there should be a worldwide ban of solitary confinement of people with psycho-social or intellectual disabilities in all places of detention, including psychiatric and social care institutions.

In August 2011 Mr. Mendez presented a report to the UN General Assembly which called for a ban on prolonged solitary confinement in prisons and stated that these practices should never be applied to children, LGBT persons, and persons with mental disabilities. Yesterday, during a panel discussion on ‘Solitary Confinement and its Human Rights Implications’, Mr. Mendez expanded this and stated that a similar ban should exist for people with psycho-social or intellectual disabilities irrespective of the place of detention. He also confirmed that he will use the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities as the standard in this area.

MDAC warmly welcomes this statement as an important step towards preventing torture and ill-treatment. MDAC hopes that other international and national human rights bodies will echo this, that healthcare and social care professionals will stand behind it, and that governments will implement it.

MDAC’s Detention Monitoring project manager was also a panelist, and presented on the widespread use of seclusion as well as chemical and physical restraint of persons with psycho-social disabilities as well as people with intellectual disabilities in mental health and social care settings, often carried out in people’s “best interests” and condoned by national laws. MDAC highlighted the need for an absolute ban on these practices as they violate international human rights standards. MDAC highlighted the death in January 2012 of a 51-year old woman, who hanged herself in a cage bed in the Czech Republic, and set out the findings of our 2003 report on cage beds.

MDAC will upload its presentation to the panel soon.

Yesterday’s panel took place during the 19th Session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva , and was organised by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Penal Reform International (PRI). MDAC’s work on detention monitoring is kindly funded by Zennström Philanthropies. For more information, please contact mdac@mdac.org.

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