Statement Opposing OHCHR-WHO Guidance on Mental Health, Human Rights and Legislation
9 October 2023
The Center for the Human Rights of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry Validity Foundation, and the World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry, along with other organizational and individual human rights defenders, have opposed the draft Guidance on mental health, human rights and legislation that OHCHR and WHO put out for public consultation. 1
We can only speak for ourselves and do not make claims about anyone else’s positions.
We have not been able to obtain the finalized document, which is to be publicly launched with a celebration on October 9. The launch event includes high profile individuals, though notably absent are global or regional organizations of users or survivors of psychiatry or people with psychosocial disabilities, and the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
These are the grounds for our opposition to the earlier draft, which conflicts with the CRPD in key respects. It is difficult to imagine how any changes could make the adopted Guidance acceptable.
If adopted by governments, the Guidance would wrongly place the focus of duty-bearers on making changes to mental health laws and systems, as opposed to undertaking systematic reform required to uphold the rights of persons with psychosocial disabilities and survivors of psychiatric institutionalization.
The Guidance gives the impression that the rights and freedoms of persons with psychosocial disabilities can, or should, be regulated within mental health legislation. This is discriminatory, legitimising parallel legal regimes for persons with psychosocial disabilities. Such approaches remain grounded in a medical model approach that fundamentally conflicts with the object and spirit of the CRPD.
Previous drafts of the Guidance cited with approval abusive and coercive systems and practices that violate multiple articles of the CRPD, including articles 14, 15, 16, 17 and 19, in conjunction with article 5, and the Committee’s authoritative interpretations of Convention rights (General Comment 1, Guidelines on Art 14, General Comment 5, Guidelines on Deinstitutionalization, etc.).
The Guidance is anti-reparative, placing the mental health sector, which is a systemic perpetrator of arbitrary detention and torture, in charge of legislating the rights of its victims – directly contrary to the Guidelines on Deinstitutionalization. It is being adopted despite calls for its withdrawal by several organizations of users and survivors of psychiatry, persons with psychosocial disabilities, and allies.
We take this opportunity to reiterate our concerns. Mental health guidance on legislation conflicts with states’ obligations to implement the CRPD and all the normative jurisprudence of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities relating to the human rights of persons with psychosocial disabilities and survivors of psychiatric institutionalization.
We call on all human rights defenders to reject the OHCHR-WHO Guidance and continue to advance and defend the implementation of states’ reparative justice obligations under the CRPD and the Committee’s General Comments and Guidelines.
We request the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to vigilantly monitor the implementation of Guidelines on Deinstitutionalization, particularly in respect of survivors of psychiatric institutionalization and persons with psychosocial disabilities.
1) Organizations opposing the draft Guidance in the public consultation included the Center for the Human Rights ofUsers and Survivors of Psychiatry, Liberation for Full Human Rights, Stop Forced Treatment Collective, Transforming Communities for Inclusion, European Network of Independent Living, Validity Foundation, Disability Rights International.