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Reisverslag First day of Summerschool went well
16 juli 2012
First day of Summerschool went well
Today was very interesting.
We started with a central orientation in the Auditorium, where students from all summerschool-classes gathered. We got a general introduction to the house rules and the facilities and services.
After this general and plenary orientation, the groups were divided over the University building. My class (Mental Disability Law in Practice) went to the 6th floor, in room 609, where we will have all of our class sessions. Then we started with an introduction to our course. First Oliver Lewis, director of MDAC, set out the objectives and the purpose of the course, which are: Awareness on international law policy and practice, increased lawyering skills (theory and implementation) and knowledge on how to advance human rights through court actions (litigation and legal advocacy). To me, this could be very useful to strengthen my advocacy skills against forced treatments and to push for more change in the Dutch mental health law reform processes.
Then the lecturers (those who were present) presented themselves, and after that we (students) were asked to interview each other, and then present the other person to the group. This was all quite relaxed, and I felt more and more at ease.
After the lunch break Oliver Lewis told us something more about the UN CRPD, explaining on the scope, the spirit, the origin and the drafting process, and several articles were highlighted, analysed and discussed. This was all not really new to me, until we started discussing the segregation between Civil-Political rights and Economic-Social-Cultural rights. It is still a bit confusing, because the distinction between the Civil-Political rights and Economic-Social rights is somehow artificial and not always clear.
Basically, Civil-Political rights are negative rights, which means these rights “are there” for everyone in the same way, and basically State-actions or resources are not directly needed to be entitled to these rights (like the right to freedom of expression). On the other side are the Economic-Social-Cultural rights, which are called positive rights, because they need positive investment, like resources and State-actions, and the extend may vary between persons or groups. The Economic-Social-Cultural rights are therefore subject to “progressive realisation” which basically means that implementation may take time and efforts, and legally this needs to be monitored to assess if progress is made.
However, this theoretical distinction seems to be quite artificial, because in practice, many rights show an overlap and coherence, like for example the right to vote, which IS a right, but implementing this right for blind persons may take resources (such as Braille, or special provisions for support). So one could argue about progressive realization of “special” voting procedures. But the right to be free from discrimination is a Civil-Political right, which is not subject to progressive realization, because discrimination is absolutely prohibited and non-negotiable, and it would imply “equally accessible” voting procedures. So it just depends on which words you choose, which perspective is applied.
There was quite some discussion on this subject, and someone said that in fact the positive rights are always linked to negative rights, so it can be seen as a difference between “what” and “how” (or as qualitative and quantitative). And in fact “equality and non-discrimination” are classic Civil-Political rights, aiming for full inclusion of all people, so Economic-Social-Cultural rights are in a way splitting up the implementation from the core. I found that an interesting statement and this all gave me a lot to think about.
After this discussion Oliver told us some more about the Optional Protocol of the UN CRPD, and about the CRPD Committee and its work.
Then after the coffeebreak we had a lecture from Charles Halpern (Washington USA) who has played a prominent role in establishing mental health laws in the USA in the past 40 years. (50 years ago there weren’t any special mental health laws)
Charles Halpern started the session with a yoga exercise to re-energize and to stay balanced and focussed. That was nice.
Then he talked about the case of Rouse (1966), who was for 4 years confined in a (forensic) mental health institution without getting any treatment or whatsoever. The period of confinement had been longer that the regular jail sentence. Charles Halpern challenged this in court successfully, and Rouse got out of there. Charles still wanted to make an issue of the absence of treatment in mental health detention, and he built a network of experts, for making a test litigation strategy. The network was called Mental Health Law project (1971, later on the Bazelon Centre for mental health law). Then he read in the NewYork Times about a case in Alabama (Wyatt 1974) and offered his help. This lead to a class action on “the right to treatment”. The judge on this case (Frank Johnsson) was willing and trying to alter this systematic warehousing of people. They succeeded in the case, which eventually lead to new legislation on the mental health system in the USA, including a right to treatment.
I suddenly realized that this must be the reason why psychiatric “professionals” used to plea that (solitary) confinement IS treatment, called “milieu-therapy” (meaning the surroundings IS the treatment). This was of course not the objective of the actions taken by Charles Halpern. In fact this is a really severe side effect of this litigation. When I asked mr. Halpern about this, he answered that confinement isn’t treatment, and suggested to invite (real) experts to visit and review the situation. He didn’t get into the point of having maybe missed the goal… and even causing a massive trend of justifying forced interventions as treatment, which is very stigmatizing. So in my opinion this achieved legislation on “right to treatment” isn’t a real success, but even a threat. (and before deciding on treatments, the concept of mental illness and the idea of “what to solve with treatment” should be defined well, and we all know that still is an issue too). So I’m not feeling very positive about this litigation from the USA.
Charles Halpern also mentioned that the new legislation caused de-institutionalization of the worst places, and relocation to smaller sized group homes, but in these places the same violations and abuses still occur. So without any further support litigation alone is not enough.
We finished just after 5 pm, and we had a break before the optional panel discussion started at 6pm “Does litigation prevent torture and ill-treatment?” Several things were discussed, and some were really interesting to me, like risks of litigation. I did feel some tension coming when somebody mentioned the selection of model cases for litigation (cases that have a high chance to succeed, which in my opinion is somehow passing by on the “human” in human rights.. what if you’re not a model case?? But this is a very philosophical question). Anyway, it was again quite interesting in a general way.
Afterwards, at around 8pm we had a Welcome Reception with students from all summerschool-classes at a place next door, with nice drinks and delicious food. I didn’t stay very long, because I was tired. But then in the buss I met a student from another class (Diana) and we started talking about my experiences and opinions, (she basically interviewed me), and we stayed outside in front of the entrance for quite a long time. We had a very interesting conversation and she was impressed by me :) It was very nice to share perspectives. That is what I’m here for.
I like it here. I think I’m going to learn a lot.
(but also I did take a look at the papers, and I sensed some old-fashioned perceptions. I guess I will have some discussion to do, but fortunately I’m not facing 2 weeks of major disagreement, but just a few tough discussions. I’m really happy about that :)
Now it’s really time to get some sleep.
Foto's bij verslag (1)
17 juli 2012 07:27 | Door: je moeder
Goed hoor! Een vruchtbare eerste dag!
Ik hoop dat het zo goed blijft gaan...