Disability and torture publication

31 August, Budapest – Today the prestigious International Journal of Human Rights published a special edition on “Disability and Torture”, which was edited by the Mental Disability Advocacy Center. The seven papers each address aspects of how law can be used to prevent abuses against people with disabilities, especially in places of detention.

The special edition is the culmination of discussions which took place at a seminar in November 2011 in Strasbourg on ‘Evolving Standards in Preventing Torture and Ill-treatment against Persons with Disabilities’, which MDAC co-organised. The seminar brought together members of the UN and European torture-prevention bodies, the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and Thomas Hammarberg, then Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights and now MDAC’s Honorary President. NGOs attended, including the European Network of (Ex-) Users and Survivors of Psychiatry, and the International Disability Alliance

The special edition’s Foreword is a collaborative effort by Shuaib Chalklen (UN Special Rapporteur on Disability) and Juan Mendez (UN Special Rapporteur on Torture), who urge those working to prevent torture not to forget about people with disabilities. Special editors of this edition Dorottya Karsay (MDAC Detention Monitoring Project Manager) and Oliver Lewis (MDAC Executive Director) set the scene of the special edition in their piece on, “Disability, torture and ill-treatment: taking stock and ending abuses”. Several academics presented draft papers to the November seminar and these have been finalised for publication:

MDAC has long-advocated for a closure of institutions, which are all breeding grounds for abuse and neglect. An example is MDAC’s Stanev v. Bulgaria case, where the European Court of Human Rights found that Mr Stanev suffered degrading treatment because of the grotesque conditions of the institution in which he was placed. While MDAC fights for justice for victims like Mr Stanev, it also works to prevent future abuses. MDAC’s key advocacy themes in this respect are that inspectorates should:


  • recognise the range of human rights violations affecting people with disabilities;
  • visit disability-specific places of detention;
  • apply the standards of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; and
  • train and include people with disabilities to be human rights monitors.


MDAC thanks Amrita Mukherjee of the University of Leeds for coordinating the special edition, and Zennström Philanthropies for funding the November 2011 seminar. 

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