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Reisverslag A big misunderstanding first - but VERY GOOD NEWS!
10 maart 2014
A big misunderstanding first - but VERY GOOD NEWS!
This morning I got up at 7 (by that time Tina Minkowitz left for the NGO-breakfast session on the USA). And at 8 AM Hege and I left the apartment to go to the UN Headquarters Palais des Nations. We arrived there around 9, but there was a very long queue for the entrance and registration and we had to wait about one hour before we got in. That was really frustrating and disappointing, because by that we missed the opening of the session at 10 AM, which was the statement and presentation of the annual report from the Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez. When we arrived in the room the country delegates were already giving their replies, and since there are many countries represented in the Human Rights Council, the replies lasted for several hours. So Hege and I were sitting there and listening and strategizing a response to make on behalf of WNUSP at the NGO-reply-session.
At some point a Dutch guy approached me. It was Paul Peters from the Netherlands UN mission in Geneva, who I had met before at the CAT Committee review last year. He asked me why I was there and I mentioned that I was advocating for the World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry (www.wnusp.net) and that I hoped to get some information on my personal case which I had submitted to the Special Rapporteur on Torture. Then Paul said: “Yes, I read something about that”. I asked him to clarify, and he went into his papers and found the document on Observations on communications transmitted to Governments and replies received* . It was said to be file A/HRC/25/74. I thanked the guy (he left) and I tried Google, and found the document. It was file A/HRC/25/60add2 (http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session25/Documents/A-HRC-25-60-Add2_EFS.doc )
So this was the big moment for me. I immediately looked up the part on the Netherlands and there it was: my complaint.
I read the paragraph on my personal case:
JAL 08/10/2013 Case No. NLD 2/2013 State Reply: 5/12/2013 Alleged forced psychiatric interventions, including seclusion for various periods of time and forced medication without informed consent.
111. The Special Rapporteur thanks the Government of the Netherlands for its response dated 13 May 2013 to the Joint Allegation Letter concerning alleged forced psychiatric interventions of Ms. Johanna Christina Santegoeds, including seclusion for various periods of time, forced medication without informed consent, and frequent forced body cavity searches during the period of October 1994 and May 1997. The Special Rapporteur had expressed concern that such forced intervention constituted a violation of Ms. Santegoeds’ right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health as embodied in article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ratified by the Netherlands on 11 December 1978). The Special Rapporteur acknowledges the response of the Government that allegations “in general terms” were investigated and found without merit. However, it is regretful that no information from the investigations regarding allegations of physical injury resulting from forced medication and cavity searches was provided by the Government. If such facts are substantiated, the Special Rapporteur reminds the Government of its obligation to provide full redress, including fair and adequate compensation, and as full rehabilitation as possible to all victims of torture or other ill-treatment. Additionally, the Special Rapporteur expressed concern over the alleged use of solitary confinement and other measures which isolated those with mental disabilities further from the community. The Special Rapporteur echoed concerns expressed in his 2013 report to the Human Rights Council that prolonged seclusion and restraint may constitute torture or ill-treatment (A/63/175, paras. 55-56), excepted in the limited circumstances of risk of immediate harm to self or others. In this regard, the Special Rapporteur is encouraged by the response of the Government, detailing efforts in the Compulsory Mental Health Care Act and through programs such as Assertive Community Treatment, which encourage community access as a component of treatment and aim to eliminate the use of solitary confinement. The Special Rapporteur encourages the Government to continue in its engagement with the mandate.
I was shocked by the sentence on “The Special Rapporteur echoed concerns expressed in his 2013 report to the Human Rights Council that prolonged seclusion and restraint may constitute torture or ill-treatment (A/63/175, paras. 55-56), excepted in the limited circumstances of risk of immediate harm to self or others”. I felt betrayed and rejected, because the risk of harm to self was present in my case, and I felt like my complaints were therefore dismissed. I was fighting my tears, but I didn’t really succeed. I was still in the middle of the conference room, and I tried to keep calm. I tried to think about it, but it was painful. I didn’t understand what was written there. I felt like it said that the horrible circumstances, such as 2 years solitary confinement, 2 years of forced body cavity search at age 16-18, at times being strapped on a bed, sometimes even naked, continuously forcefully drugged and neglected medical injuries, all are “only” a violation of the right to health, but not torture or ill-treatment.. while it IS torture and ill-treatment to treat an innocent person so bad. I was depressed and suicidal, and of course this forced “treatment” made these feelings even worse. I was rotting in a cell. I didn’t want to live like that. It was active wrongdoing…not just “inappropriate medical care”. It was damaging me, devastating me, breaking me… endlessly… It is a typical torturous practice.
We (Hege and I) decided to approach the Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez, directly after the session to ask if we could talk about this statement. So at the end of the session we approached Mendez, but he had to give an interview, and I had to wait (and Hege left for a moment). Then, as I was waiting, I got overwhelmed by emotions again, and again shed some tears. One lady saw it, and asked me if I was okay. Then the assistant of Mendez approached me and offered me some water. I appreciated that. When she returned with the water, she invited me to come “backstage”, and then offered me to schedule a small private meeting with Juan Mendez, at 3 pm (which would be in 40 minutes). I really appreciated that, and I asked if I could bring in my colleagues from WNUSP, which was okay. So then we first went outside to wait 30 minutes. The weather was beautifully sunny and it uplifted my spirit again.
Just before 3 PM we were in the hallway, looking for the meeting room 3004, where Mendez was expecting us. We couldn’t find it, but then the assistant found us and guided us to the room. Mendez was sitting there with 2 of his staff. We were getting 10 minutes.
I asked him what he meant by this strange sentence on the danger-criterion in the communication on my case, and whether this meant that “when there is a perceived danger, it cannot be torture or ill-treatment”. He explained that I misread the sentence: He was just repeating the law at that point, and it didn’t apply to my case. He found that my rights were indeed violated. I was quite happy to hear this clarification, but I am still worried that the Dutch government will not understand this phrasing…
I also asked him about the sentence on investigation: “The Special Rapporteur acknowledges the response of the Government that allegations “in general terms” were investigated and found without merit. However, it is regretful that no information from the investigations regarding allegations of physical injury resulting from forced medication and cavity searches was provided by the Government.”. I also don’t understand this. There hasn’t been an investigation of my case. I haven’t been approached on it, and I am fighting for about 20 years to get an investigation, and only recently, at 6 January 2014 I finally succeeded in filing charges at the police station of Severe Planned Abuse done by psychiatry (1994-1996). I am still waiting for the investigation… So how can it be said that my complaints “were investigated and found without merit”. (I only have been to the complaint board of the psychiatric institution who rejected my complaints and said that nothing had been done wrong).. I couldn’t understand this. Then Juan Mendez clarified that he was only summarizing the communication between him and the government. It wasn’t a conclusion.
The communications between Mendez and the Dutch Government have been made public:
• The letter from the Special Rapporteur : https://spdb.ohchr.org/hrdb/24th/public_-_AL_Netherlands_08.10.13_(2.2013).pdf
• The reply of the government of the Netherlands : https://spdb.ohchr.org/hrdb/24th/Netherlands_05.12.13_(2.2013).pdf
I still have to study these documents.
It somehow feels weird. I had hoped for a more clear statement, especially since the 2013 Thematic Report on Torture in Healthcare settings, which Mendez presented last year at the Human Rights Council: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/RegularSession/Session22/A.HRC.22.53_English.pdf
Hege supported me and also tried to raise awareness on the sore point of “persons who are perceived as a danger or risk of harm to self or others as an exception to the torture framework”, but we felt we didn’t really succeed in tackling this point.
The 10 minutes had ended. Mendez seemed a bit disappointed that I was feeling so bad about it, and not thankful while he had tried to do well. I guess I was also upset by the understatements such as “various periods of solitary confinement” (it was almost 2 years, almost continuously). I just felt misunderstood, but maybe the legal language is more complicated that a non-lawyer can understand.
So this is it, the thing I have been waiting for so long.
I am still somehow confused. I should read the summary in a positive sense, and see which options it gives me. And I do see several points that can be useful for advocacy in the Netherlands; The Right to Health has to be respected, and the Right to be Free from Torture and Ill-treatment as well. The fact that the Special Rapporteur on Torture considered my case in his mandate, shows that it falls within his scope. And I can ask for redress and a guarantee of non-repetition.
Maybe it isn’t so bad (except for the part of the danger-criterion, that can be so easily misunderstood and result in a negative awareness. That remains a very painful point). But after all, I think this observation of the Special Rapporteur on Torture can still be useful in my advocacy. So I really have mixed feelings about it.
After this meeting with Juan Mendez, Hege and I went to Palais Wilson (the other UN OHCHR building) for our side-event on Torture and Ill-treatment in Mental Health Care, which was organized by WNUSP for the Human Rights Committee members. The side-event went very well, and we all felt like we really raised awareness. We got a lot of compliments and not resistance. That was very very very special and positive. I will write about that tomorrow, because by now it’s already getting late. And the stress around the observation of Mendez has taken a lot of my energy.
Today was the day that the UN Special Rapporteur found that my rights have been violated by forced psychiatry. It was a confusing message, but after all I think I can use this message as a tool in the struggle against forced psychiatric interventions. That is very special. Today is the day I finally got some recognition. WHAT THEY DID TO ME IN PSYCHIATRY WAS WRONG ACCORDING TO THE UNITED NATIONS. I always knew it was wrong, but now it is officially recognized. That matters. I am a person and I have rights!!!! And even though the wording may be very confusing, it acknowledges my rights and my feelings, and it legitimizes my perception of wrongdoing by forced psychiatry. It is really something. It is the milestone I have been struggling for. It says: I am right I was indeed abused and they shouldn’t have done that. They were wrong.
I think I will sleep well now, and forget about the confusion…
I am right and they were wrong :)
11 maart 2014 07:57 | Door: je moeder
Lieve Jolijn, ik ben blij voor je dat je erkenning hebt gevonden. Ook vandaag veel succes.
12 maart 2014 22:42 | Door: Jolijn Santegoeds
(at 12 March 2014)
I’m HAPPY and UNSTOPPABLE!!! It took a while to understand the outcome around my personal complaints. The summary was easily misread with the reference to the danger-criterion (that is why I got upset), but the real letter contains much more clarity. After re-reading the full letter of the Special Rapporteur on Health and the SR on Torture to the Government of the Netherlands over and over again, I am really getting happier and happier everyday. It really puts weight to my complaints, and puts pressure on the government to change, and even includes a broader scope for “all victims” and “preventing recurrence”. It is amazing! The questions are great!!! Such as:
(4) “What measures have been undertaken by the Government of the Netherlands to revise the legal provisions that allow detention on mental health grounds or in mental health facilities, and any coercive interventions or treatments in the mental health setting without the free and informed consent by the person concerned? What steps have been undertaken to replace forced treatment and commitment by services in the community that meet needs expressed by persons with disabilities and respect the autonomy, choices, dignity and privacy of the person concerned, with an emphasis on various alternatives for mental health care, including peer support, awareness-raising and training of mental health-care and law enforcement personnel and others?”
(6) “What measures have been undertaken to impose an absolute ban on all forced and non-consensual medical interventions against persons with disabilities, including the non-consensual administration of psychosurgery, electroshock and mindaltering drugs such as neuroleptics, the use of restraint and solitary confinement, for both long-and short-term application?”
I am really really really sooooo happy with this. I finally start to realize that I can call this a real victory. I am so grateful (and a bit ashamed for my slow understanding of the value of this work). In my opinion the summary to the Human Rights Council is confusing, but the actual letter to the Government is really what I had wished for and hoped for. So I am absolutely happy now. Happier than happy. The greatest feeling. The Netherlands will have to change it’s practices of mental health care!!!!! I must thank the Special Rapporteurs for this beautiful empowerment.
You can read the letter here: https://spdb.ohchr.org/hrdb/24th/public_-_AL_Netherlands_08.10.13_(2.2013).pdf