Segment 2: Torture

* Essential readings

*CRPD Article 15; see also Articles 12, 14, 16, 17, 25(d)

African Disability Protocol [to be added]


UN general legal standards on torture:

*Convention Against Torture, Art. 1

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Art. 7 and Human Rights Committee (ICCPR monitoring body) General Comment No. 20

Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture, Art. 2


Survivors and allies on forced psychiatry as torture:

*One or more of the following:

Alice Halmi, Coercive Psychiatry a Torture System

Minkowitz, Advocacy paper on forced interventions as torture (2 pg)

Minkowitz, Forced interventions and forced institutionalization as torture/CIDT (cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment) from perspective of PWD (ppt) (pdf alternative format: AnnexIII-2)

Minkowitz, UN CRPD and the Right to Be Free from Nonconsensual Psychiatric Interventions (full article)

Linda Steele, Challenging Law’s Monopoly on Violence: Human Rights and Disability-Specific Violence

See also survivor testimonies and other writings for Absolute Prohibition Campaign


Torture in the Global South:

In many countries of the Global South violent interventions against people with psychosocial disabilities exist in family or community settings as well as in psychiatry.  For this segment of the course I retain the focus on psychiatric violence as that is my area of particular interest and knowledge.  There is a linkage and a continuity between these forms of violence, and invite students to reflect on this if they wish.

Human Rights Watch report on Indonesia, practice of pasung (restraint or confinement in homes or just outside, differentiated from institutional confinement) and also institutionalization and forced mental health treatment.  HRW’s recommendations do not adhere to CRPD standard that prohibits deprivation of liberty based on ‘danger to self or others’ and prohibits forced treatment and denial of legal capacity (see Guidelines on Article 14 and General Comment No. 1, to be discussed further in segments 3 and 4); furthermore HRW uncritically promotes for the Global South the expansion of conventional mental health treatment that is under sharp criticism in the Global North countries where it predominates.  I include the report for its information and invite you to reflect on what kinds of alternative practices can be done in such circumstances without any kind of ill-treatment or deprivation of autonomy.  (Compare for example with report by USP-Kenya, which makes recommendations for a range of positive human rights measures rather than relying on mental health services as the solution.  The USP-K report relates closely to legal capacity and will be linked in segment 3 also.)


Reparation for serious human rights violations:

*Hege Orefellen, Urgent need for effective remedies, redress, and guarantees of non-repetition

UN Basic Principles and Guidelines on Remedy and Reparation


UN documents on forced psychiatry as torture:

1986 Report by Special Rapporteur on Torture P. Kooijmans (paragraph 119) (not readable to screen reader but relevant text will be provided in lecture ppt)

*2008 Report by Special Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak (section III)

*2013 Report by Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez (sections III, IV A, D and E, and V)

Exchange between World Psychiatric Association and Méndez (these are not formal UN documents, but note that the Rapporteur calls into question some of his apparent positions in the report).  Minkowitz commentary on the report in this compilation analyzes what advanced the standard and what was inconsistent with CRPD, before his exchange with WPA.

*CRPD General Comment No. 1, para. 42

*CRPD Guidelines on Article  14, para 12

CRPD General Comment No. 3 (on Art 6 women with disabilities), paras 10, 17, 30-32, 43-47, 51, 53-55, 62(a).

CRPD General Comment No. 6 (on Art 5 equality and non-discrimination), references to forced drugging/electroshock, etc. as disability-based violence/torture and ill-treatment.


Opposed to CRPD standard:

Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (UN expert body overseeing the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture), Approach regarding treatment without free and informed consent


Enforcement potential:

Minkowitz brief in third party intervention under CRPD Optional Protocol

Recommendations by CHRUSP and others for OPCAT monitoring of psychiatric institutions applying CRPD standards


Fall 2017 materials:

Lecture video recording and slides segment 2 final

Spring 2017 materials:

Lecture #2 (playback – note that it works on Firefox and Chrome browsers, may not work on others)

Power point for segment 2 (and pdf version segment 2)



1-2 page reflection paper.

Discuss the value of framing forced psychiatric interventions as torture (or, as torture or other ill-treatment).  What are the advantages and disadvantages of using this concept?  How useful is the conceptualization of forced interventions as torture, in the effort to secure an absolute prohibition of commitment and forced treatment?



What is the value of bringing both non-medical (religious, or carer-focused) and medical forced interventions under the framework of torture?  Does this help to bring out the underlying unity and continuity of discrimination among all such practices?  How can we ensure that combating one form of disability-based violence does not merely allow another one to expand?

(c) Tina Minkowitz 2017