Are persons with disabilities valued less than other detainees?

11 November 2011, Geneva. MDAC participated at the Global Forum on the OPCAT (Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture) organized by the Association for Prevention of Torture. The theme of the two-day Forum was ‘Preventing Torture, Upholding Dignity: from Pledges to Actions’.

Oliver Lewis, Executive Director of MDAC gave a presentation on a panel where Juan Méndez, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture also spoke. The session focused on ‘Achieving a more inclusive strategy on torture prevention’. Oliver highlighted the need for inspectorates to be much more inclusive with regards to the variety of detention settings visited. Oliver posed the question about why out of the 225 places of detention visited by the SPT since 2007 only around five were psychiatric institutions, raising the provocative moral question whether this means that the international monitoring body values the lives and rights of people in such institutions less than those in prisons and police stations.

Oliver also highlighted that monitoring bodies need to be more inclusive and involve users and survivors of mental health services, who are ‘experts by experience’, as monitors. Oliver also called on inspectorates to apply international human rights standards, including those in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and ensure that their reports and recommendations reflect these.The webcast of the panel can be viewed here.

For the first time since the inception of OPCAT, the global forum brought together all relevant stakeholders to share their experiences about the implementation of OPCAT, discuss challenges and ways forward. Over 300 participants representing States Parties, National Human Rights Institutions, Members of the UN global monitoring body (Subcommittee for the Prevention of Torture – SPT) and national level inspectorates, Chairpersons of relevant UN bodies, regional torture preventive bodies, as well as domestic and international NGOs.

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