Since 2013, the Council of Europe Committee on Bioethics (DH-BIO) has been working on drawing up an Additional Protocol to the Oviedo Convention, aimed at protecting the rights of people with psychosocial disabilities with regard to involuntary placement and involuntary treatment.
On 22 April 2016, the Parliamentary Assembly adopted Recommendation 2091 (2016) on “The case against a Council of Europe legal instrument on involuntary measures in psychiatry”, in which it opposed the drafting of such an Additional Protocol and recommended to the Committee of Ministers (CM) to invite the DH-BIO to instead focus its work on promoting alternatives to involuntary measures in psychiatry.
Despite the Assembly’s concerns being shared by a number of high-profile human rights bodies, including the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights and the committee responsible for monitoring the implementation of the relevant UN Convention, the UNCRPD, the Committee of Ministers replied in November 2016 giving the green light for continued work on the Additional Protocol. More positively, the Committee of Ministers agreed on the importance of information exchange and sharing of best practices with a view to the complementary development of guidelines to reduce the use of involuntary measures, and – taking up an Assembly recommendation – encouraged the DH-BIO to directly involve disability rights organisations in the work still to be undertaken on the Additional Protocol.
It is important that the Assembly be in a position to closely follow the on-going work, both regarding content (how to minimise the negative effect this Additional Protocol may have on the rights of people with psychosocial disabilities, as well as on the credibility of the Council of Europe as a human rights organisation?) and procedure (how to ensure the adequate involvement of disability rights organisations in the drafting procedure?).