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Committee calls for withdrawal of ‘discriminatory’ draft text on people with mental health problems

A PACE committee has called for the withdrawal of a draft Council of Europe legal text on the involuntary placement and treatment of people with mental health problems on the ground that its basic premise is “discriminatory”.

Approving a report by Guguli Magradze (Georgia, SOC), PACE’s Social Affairs Committee said “any legal instrument that keeps a link between involuntary measures and disability will be discriminatory in nature” and would violate the UN’s new global treaty on disability rights.

The draft additional protocol to the Council of Europe’s Oviedo Convention “maintains such a link, as having a ‘mental disorder’ constitutes the basis of the involuntary treatment and placement, together with other criteria,” the parliamentarians pointed out in a draft recommendation to governments.

The relevant UN body has made clear that laws which deprive people with mental health issues of their liberty on the basis of their illness – rather than on the basis of their being a danger to themselves or others – should be ditched.

This does not mean that persons with disabilities, including those with psychosocial disabilities, cannot be lawfully subject to detention for care and treatment, it only means that the legal grounds upon which the decision is taken must apply to anyone who is deemed a danger to themselves or others (such as in the context of domestic violence, so-called “honour-crimes” or threatened murder-suicides in the family).

The Council of Europe expert group which drafted the protocol is due to discuss in May whether or not to proceed with the text.