MDAC Down Under

23 February 2012. MDAC’s Executive Director, Oliver Lewis, was in Australia this week attending several meetings on the interface between torture, detention and people with disabilities.

On Monday and Tuesday Oliver attended a conference entitled “Implementing Human Rights in Closed Environments”, organised by the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law at Monash University, Melbourne. Attendees came from detention monitoring bodies from all over Australia, from national and state-level ombuds offices and human rights activists in the fields of immigration, disability, police and prisons. Other speakers included Dame Anne Owers, former chief inspector of prisons in the UK, and Catherine Branson QC, President and Human Rights Commissioner, Australian Human Rights Commission, Australia.

During the opening plenary session Oliver gave a thirty-minute presentation on disability and detention, setting out five practical steps which would reduce the incidences of torture and other forms of ill-treatment against people with disabilities. He argued that (1) the UN Sub-Committee for the Prevention of Torture should visit a more balanced range of places of detention; (2) research needs to be conducted into the effectiveness of monitoring bodies; (3) monitoring bodies need to be less deferential to medicine; (4) monitoring bodies need to embrace the participation of experts by experience as monitors; and (5) monitoring bodies need to engage with wider areas of policy by calling for the right to live in the community.

On Wednesday Oliver participated in a seminar on changing organisational cultures in closed institutions, and on Thursday Oliver presented at two smaller seminars, one at the Human Rights Law Centre and another at the Mental Health Legal Centre in Melbourne. At these seminars Oliver presented on MDAC’s work in Europe and Africa and about MDAC’s experience in advocating for better monitoring of mental health and social care institutions. Oliver learned about the Victorian mental health system, the envisioned mental health law reforms as well as Australia’s likely ratification of the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture. Among other issues, of particular concern to the participants was the recently-reported deaths of people with psycho-social disabilities in Victoria who were under community treatment orders.

Oliver’s Australia trip was funded by the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law and Monash University, Melbourne, through an Australia Research Council grant.

RSS Find us on facebook MDAC is on Twitter Company profile of MDAC on LinkedIn MDAC youtube channel Google plus close