MDAC started working with its partner organisation the Estonian Patient’s Advocacy Association in 2002.


Current situation

As a State Party to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, Estonia’s designated NPM, the Office of the Estonian Legal Chancellor of Justice (CoJ) carries out monitoring visits to places of detention, such as psychiatric and social care institutions, to prevent forms of ill-treatment. The Chancellor of Justice Act provides that ‘specialists’ can join the Chancellor of Justice on inspections and have the same rights and obligations as CoJ representatives. Although the CoJ has involved service users in its monitoring activity in a number of cases, this practice has been quite rare. MDAC and the Chancellor of Justice Office jointly organized a capacity-building event in January 2011 to encourage the participation of service users and contribute to the effectiveness of the NPM. 


MDAC activities

Strategic litigation:In a series of cases taken with our partner organisation, MDAC has focused on challenging abuses in the guardianship system.

We have for instance lodged a case at the European Court of Human Rights on the unacceptable way in which people under guardianship are sent to social care institutions. In another case our client, an adult woman, was ordered to live in a social care institution for three years without a court review. MDAC and its partner organisation successfully helped this client get out of the institution and return to the community.

Advocacy: MDAC has highlighted how outdated Estonian mental health law is when compared to international standards. As a direct result of MDAC's work, the UN Human Rights Committee called upon the Estonian government to amend its laws.

Capacity-building:In January 2011 MDAC co-hosted a training event in Tallinn with the Office of the Estonian Legal Chancellor of Justice, the Estonian Patient’s Advocacy Association, and Penal Reform International on ‘Service User and Prisoner Participation in Monitoring Places of Detention’. The workshop brought together representatives from States, independent monitoring bodies, NGOs, and mental health service users to discuss the benefits and challenges of service user involvement in detention monitoring to improve the effectiveness of monitoring in Estonia and elsewhere.

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