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Reisverslag Another day full of human rights meetings
16 mei 2013
Another day full of human rights meetings
The argument of financial crisis is nowadays often used as a reason for not creating human rights treaty services (such as monitoring bodies, NHRI’s), and even existing rights such as social welfare are reduced. The UN takes the stand that there can be no regress from the current level of implementation of human rights.
We talked about various forms of anti-discrimination laws, and about NPM’s and NHRI. Ms. Shin mentioned that a NHRI (National Human Rights Institute) should be independent, monitor human rights, and deal with individual complaints (according to Paris Principles). That struck me, because the Dutch NHRI (College voor de Rechten van de Mens) had said that they do not handle individual complaints. So this sounded like another error in the Dutch system.
It was interesting that Ms. Shin said that she knew a Dutch member of the CEDAW-Committee, who had said : “a NHRI, we need that in the Netherlands”. I agree, but I think we need an active, adequately functioning NHRI, but maybe that is to come. They have just established the Dutch NHRI last year, and it may be the right time to address the shortcomings.
Then we waited for Malcolm Evans, the chair of the SPT (Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture, which visits places of detention, such as prisons and psychiatric institutions). Unfortunately he was so occupied that he could only take about 10 minutes for us, but we used that time very efficiently. I handed him a set of documents, which he could study later. Then in high speed I asked him several questions: Do you know the report of the Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez, on Torture in Health Care settings? – Yes I know it. What is the SPT’s position on that? – We are still discussing internally, because there are some contradictions in it. Did you know that The Special Rapporteur, Mr. Mendez is preparing a more in-depth report on this subject? – Yes, but maybe a short version with clear statements would be more useful. What about the SPT’s working paper on Mental Health and detention? – It is being revised in the light of the report of the Special Rapporteur. Will the SPT consult with user-organizations in a later phase? – The SPT will revise the document internally and see how that works, and the SPT may come out with a public statement or a public letter on the report of the Special Rapporteur. We heard rumours of a meeting between SPT and CRPD, will that happen? – Yes there is an intention, but it’s probably not what you think it is, it is about monitoring frameworks on the national level, the interface of the NPM and article 33 of the CRPD. This took 3 minutes, and the rest of the time we discussed the situation in Japan, which didn’t ratify OPCAT (Optional Protocol on the Convention Against Torture) and so there are no monitoring visits of the SPT. What can be done about that? Malcolm Evans told us that there are more countries who didn’t ratify OPCAT, but there can still be national monitoring. Some states prefer to experiment with national monitoring mechanisms, before committing to binding treaties. SPT can provide support in establishing national monitoring mechanisms. This doesn’t necessarily need to be an official NPM or a full NHRI, but it can also be thematic monitoring, and can for example also be done by lawyers or NGO’s. Some countries prefer to first give it a try and see if it works for them. This is the so-called “soft approach”. This was very useful information for the Japanese delegation. Contacts have been exchanged.
Then Malcolm rushed off to the public session with the CAT-committee and the SPT-chair. This appeared to be more of a technical meeting. Malcolm Evans, the SPT-chair presented the Annual report of the SPT. They had gone from performing 3 visits to 6 visits each year, and by now almost 50% of the state parties that ratified CAT also ratified OPCAT. Also there is a new style of visits, which is the NPM-advisory visit, where the SPT tries to strengthen the NPM (National Preventive Mechanisms). This engagement with national NPM’s seems to be working very well. There has also been an increasing number of replies of states to SPT-reports, often followed by informal responses, leading to a confidential and constructive dialogue around the SPT-recommendations. The contacts are becoming more of a routine. There are also regional teams of the SPT which engage with the NPM’s. There is a Special Fund which receives donations for the implementation of recommendations, and about 1000 projects have been carried out.
Within the SPT, the first membership-terms had ended, and some of the founding members have been replaced by new members. The secretariat is more efficient, and also there are several working groups, such as on the development of NPM-work, the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, reprisals and procedural issues.
There are also some substantial issues the SPT is working on: there should not be any delay in getting access to places of detention during visits, because then precious time is wasted. Also the concept of “places of detention” is a broad concept, and the interpretation of states remains a challenge. The SPT also produced a paper on indigenous justice and the prevention of torture.
The last item was on expanding activities and closer cooperation with CAT, by better informing each other so that Concluding Observations and SPT’s recommendations complement each other. The CAT and SPT share the same process, but have different tools. The common goal is to prevent torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, so it is useful to explore ways to share information, reinforce statements and establish closer collaboration.
Especially the topic of indigenous justice and the prevention of torture raised questions and concerns at the CAT-committee members, but the SPT-chair said this was more limited than it sounds, and this topic will be discussed in the November session of SPT
The session ended just after 13.00, and then we had to go straight to the OHCHR-office at Motta, where we had 2 other meetings in the cafeteria. We arrived hungry, and we took a good meal there.
At 14.00 Arbena Kuriu, the incoming OHCHR desk officer on the Netherlands joined us.
The goal of her work is to stimulate engagement between the state, human-rights-treaty-mechanisms, and OHCHR. She was new in this function, and she was very interested in hearing more about the situation of torture and ill-treatment in mental health care in the Netherlands. I presented her my shadow-report (CAT-submission) and raised some concerns, such as the amount of forced treatments and deaths by coercion in mental health care, the dominating medical model, the lack of access to justice, and the draft laws which are expanding the options and legal grounds for forced treatments. When I told her that the Dutch NHRI does not take on individual complaints, she asked me to send me information about that, because there seem to be a classification of A-, B-, and C-status of NHRI. She also said that the NHRI must look at issues of concern to human rights. She wanted to check what is happening. She had a proactive attitude.
We talked some more about strategic actions regarding the draft laws on forced treatments, and how to push for developments in the direction of the CRPD and other human rights treaties. I said that the Netherlands is very keen on their international image, as they want to keep their ‘leadership-position’ in the EU and also globally. This was also one of the considerations of submitting a shadow report to CAT. The international approach might be powerful for that reason.
Arbena told me that the High Commissioner on Human Rights, Navi Pillay, is currently visiting the Netherlands and Belgium, and she knew the issue of the rights for persons with mental disabilities had been raised in her speech last year. She wasn’t sure whether it was in the list of topics for the current visit. She will check that.
It was a very interesting meeting. And I really feel like she will not ignore the information I provided to her.
Right after this meeting, at 15.00, we had a meeting in the same cafeteria with the OHCHR focal point on disability, Facundo Chavez. I had already met Facundo in 2011 in Strasbourg at the High Level meeting organized by MDAC. It was nice to see him again.
In this session we mainly talked about the terrible situation of mental health care institutions in Japan, which has the highest rate of institutional beds in the world, run by private parties who only want more inpatients. If the government does not agree to the demands of the hospital-owners-association, then the hospital owner threaten to no longer execute the forced admissions. 97% of the state budget for mental health goes to institutions in Japan. There is no de-institutionalization at all. People are detained for many many years, 20-30 years is no exception at all. There is no way to get out. The newest laws in Japan reduce the right to social welfare, and if you have family, the family is supposed to take care of the person and social welfare is not granted. Most families are not willing to take their family members back, and users have no money to rent a place themselves. So users have no chance of finding a place outside the institution. Complaint procedures have a chance of 0,05%, basically because the complaints are reviewed by the same (state-run) tribunal which imposes forced admissions.
We talked a little more about the ratification of the CRPD, and how the Netherlands seems to think only about physical accessibility, and costly re-design of all public facilities (the economic, social and cultural dimension), but there is hardly any attention for legal capacity issues and political and civil rights. The change in attitude is fundamental and doesn’t need to cost so much money. Facundo understood this, as this is not only happening in the Netherlands. He pointed us at the regional OHCHR desks. The European desk in Brussels is very strong (I know Jan Jarab). They can maybe help to deal with that issue.
The regional OHCHR desk for the region including Japan would be in Bangkok or Fuji. Facundo will establish contact with them as well, to raise the terrible issues of mental health care in Japan.
This was also a fruitful meeting, and we all felt empowered and supported. That is so nice. In many other occasions we have to combat stigma, but here we are understood. It really gives a positive feeling. We are not alone in our struggle. There is world-wide support. That is so empowering!
We were back at the hotel after 17.00 and then we went out to have a nice dinner in a Chinese restaurant. It was delicious, but I didn’t really manage eating with the chopsticks.
The week is flying by. Tomorrow is the last working-day of this intensive week. It will be all about Japan, with the private NGO-session on Japan at 12.00, where Mari Yamamoto will make her presentation. I’m sure her contribution will be very powerful.
I’m not sure when the Concluding Observations of the CAT-committee on the Netherlands will be public, but I will report on that when it is there. It will probably come in a few weeks, at the latest. I’m looking forward to the results.
Foto's bij verslag (2)
17 mei 2013 15:36 | Door: je moeder
Wat ben je toch een harde werker!!!
Liefs en tot maandag,