Human Rights Campaigns
We Shall Overcome (WSO)
In January 2017, Norway received an Urgent Appeal concerning a case of mental health detention and forced psychiatric treatments from the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the UN Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the higest attainable standard of physical and mental health. (1)
The UN Special Procedures mandate holders states “it is highly concerning that no adequate actions seems to have been taken by the appropriate national mechanisms to investigate Mr. X’s serious allegations (…)”. The rapporteurs further states that the facts of the case “appear to be in contravention of the rights of persons with disabilities not to be arbitrarily deprived of their liberty and the right to equal recognition before the law as enshrined, inter alia, in articles 9 and 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by Norway on 13 September 1972, and the provisions of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, ratified by Norway on 09 July 1986.”
“The convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, ratified by Norway on 03 June 2013, provides further guidance to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities. Article 14 in conjunction with article 5 of the Convention prohibits unlawful and arbitrary detention on grounds of disability, including forced confinement to psychiatric facilities. In addition, article 12 of the Convention guarantees the rights of persons with disabilities to make autonomous decisions and have those decisions respected.”
“The deprivation of liberty in psychiatric hospitals and the denial of legal capacity related to consent for treatment, as in the present case, is likely to also inflict severe mental pain and suffering on the individual, thus falling under the scope of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and article 15 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Similarly, the forced administration of drugs, including antipsychotic therapy, inside psychiatric hospitals or in the context of forced outpatient treatment, may constitute a form of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment (see A/63/175, para 63; CRPD/C/DOM/CO/1, para 27). The same applies to the use of coercive measures including the use of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), mechanical and chemical restraints, and the use of isolation and seclusion for persons with psychosocial disabilities (see A/HRC/22/53, para 63; A/66/268, paras 67-68, 78; CRPD/C/SRB/CO/1; CRPD/C/THA/CO/1).”
“These provisions impose an immediate obligation on the States to immediately discontinue these practices and reform laws and policies allowing for deprivation of liberty and forced treatment on the basis of disabilities by replacing these practices with services in the community that meet needs expressed by persons with disabilities and respect the autonomy, choices, dignity, and privacy.”
The rapporteurs urged the Norwegian Government to safeguard the above-mentioned rights of Mr. X in compliance with international instruments, and to take all necessary interim measures to halt the alleged violations and prevent their re-occurrence.
In Norway’s reply to the UN mandate holders the Government dismiss the case by stating that it “fails to see that this case requires it to take particular measures and that it warrants an urgent appeal to Norway”, without any sign of initiating an prompt and impartial investigation as obligated by CAT articles 12, 13 (and 16). (2)
More than a year has passed since the Urgent Appeal, and Mr. X, who is a member of WSO, has remained under forced psychiatric interventions, including neuroleptic medication without free and informed consent.
Norway has also on earlier occasions received Urgent Appeals concerning forced psychiatric interventions from the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the UN Special Rapporteur on health, and the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women. (3) There are few signs that any of these Urgent Appeals has led to effective investigations, or provided the victims with effective remedies and redress.
1) Urgent Appeal; https://spcommreports.ohchr.org/TMResultsBase/DownLoadPublicCommunicationFile?gId=22955
2) Norway’s reply; https://spcommreports.ohchr.org/TMResultsBase/DownLoadFile?gId=60255
3) A/HRC/13/39/Add.1, page 277 http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/13session/A.HRC.13.39.Add.1_EFS.pdf
A/HRC/16/52/Add.1, page 333