Shocking: No access to Dutch remedies - Reisverslag uit Eindhoven, Nederland van Jolijn Santegoeds - Shocking: No access to Dutch remedies - Reisverslag uit Eindhoven, Nederland van Jolijn Santegoeds -

Shocking: No access to Dutch remedies

Door: Jolijn Santegoeds

Blijf op de hoogte en volg Jolijn

26 Februari 2017 | Nederland, Eindhoven

In the past couple of weeks, there have been several developments in the Netherlands that are quite disturbing to me, and which actually made me feel very powerless and sad. I faced several huge losses in my activism, such as another court rejection on my personal case, and a sudden unanimous approval by the Dutch parliament regarding a terrible new Dutch law proposal on forced psychiatric treatments. Both events ignored my activism, and the UN CRPD, and this affects my hopes and beliefs, and makes me feel like some ground underneath my feet is missing.

I cannot jump over these issues. It is in fact going very deep.
So before describing the EDF Board meeting 17-19 February 2017 in Malta in my next blog post, I will explain my situation, just because it affects me so deeply.

I became an activist after being terribly abused in psychiatry at age 16-19, (also see my Personal Testimony “16 years old, depressed and tortured by psychiatry” : ).

I have always believed that in the Netherlands, I could expose these issues in a proper way, to have these injustices effectively remedied. I tried in every possible way, always decent. And now it is like the ground is taken away from underneath my feet. My two biggest goals: going to court and changing the law, both seem to have ended in massive disappointment, and still no remedy to stop the injustices from happening. It is really hard.

Early February 2017, I received another letter from the Dutch court, again rejecting to initiate any court proceedings regarding my personal case of severe abuse and deprivation of liberty by forced psychiatry in the Netherlands. This is a tough disappointment.
Personally, I have been trying to access justice ever since I was 16 and was treated so badly in child- and adult psychiatric institutions. And yet, not any investigation has taken place despite my complaints for 22 years already. Nobody in the Netherlands, no court or official mechanism has ever investigated what happened, even though my allegations are severe, and I tried every formal and informal way to find a remedy in the Netherlands. Access to justice would be the “proper route” to address injustices. Yet it doesn’t work…. I constantly face the argument of inadmissibility, because the psychiatric plans allowed for force, and they see no paper trail of my attempts for justice etcetera. How can this be? After so many steps taken, still not even an investigation. I will have a court hearing to give my view on the final decision on inadmissibility on 25 April 2017, but making them reconsider their position twice is hard… and so I may have to proceed to the European Court on Human Rights after that (while knowing there are many barriers there as well, and the procedures would be lengthy, so it might not be offering a speedy remedy, while the injustices really need to be stopped urgently). How long will it take to get an investigation into my complaints, and to ensure this cannot happen to others? Will I ever find justice at all? How much of my life will it take? Real questions…

I was just recovering from this rejection letter of the Dutch court, when just a day later, I got severely disappointed again.

On Thursday 2 February 2017 the Dutch parliament had scheduled a debate on the new law proposal on “Mandatory mental health care”. This new law on forced psychiatric treatments expands the target group, and expands the range of options for forced psychiatric treatments. This is in direct violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD). Yet in the parliamentary debate, the Dutch politicians all agreed on the bottom lines of the law proposal, and only discussed some details of this law proposal. They didn’t raise any fundamental questions on the use of force in mental health care, or on human rights. None of the Dutch parliamentarians showed any sign of a paradigm shift or even controversy, and none mentioned that the UN CRPD actually prohibits any forced psychiatric intervention. There was mainly agreement between all of the politicians during the “debate”, and just after several hours, around midnight, the law proposal on forced psychiatric treatments was suddenly considered ready to be put to vote in the Dutch parliament on 14 February 2017. I could hardly believe that it went so fast. But it actually happened. The “discussion” was closed within one session. And despite some critical publications from various groups, just nearly 2 weeks later, on Tuesday 14 February 2017, the Dutch parliament approved this terrible new law on forced psychiatric treatments, unanimously in a plenary voting procedure. This is a real tragedy.

I really had expected at least a debate around the fundamental controversies between coercion and care. But there was no diversity of opinions, just a unanimous single sided view on so-called “necessity of forced treatments”. No discussion on quality of care. The Dutch politicians fully ignored the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and they also ignored many years of my activism.

It hurts terribly. I feel utterly powerless. So many years of activism, all seem in vain. Not a single word of our advocacy echoed in the Dutch parliament. And also the UN CRPD was ignored. It is really unbelievable. It hurts like a death-punch, like they totally don’t care about abuse of children in psychiatry. And this attitude swipes me off my feet, wounding my belief in properly making things right. My hopes are shattered and bruised… Also personally it is really painful to be exposed to the ongoing rejections, which are re-traumatizing acts of repetitive neglect and exclusion.

It can be so tough to hang on. I always believed I would be able to find justice, even when the search was hard. I believed that in the Netherlands, signals of abuse would be picked up and addressed. That things would be made right, and that I only needed to find the right address for my complaints. Yet, all these rejections make it extremely hard to keep up the faith. It is really tough to see that these injustices aren’t remedied at all so far, and it is taking so many years already.

The rejections make me feel so powerless and small, and each rejection is another part of shattered hopes and broken dreams, deeply longing for justice to be done. It’s really hard not to feel broken and bitter by this huge neglect.. It hurts in so many ways. It is deeply insulting and demotivating.

And now, I must find the strength to continue, even when the people in power don’t want to listen. Maybe they will listen next time… I can try…. I still want to cling on to the hope that ultimately I will find justice, and that change will come, and that we will be able to build up a really nice world for everyone, just because it is the right thing that should happen. This hope keeps me going.

So I just try to cling on to my firm belief that ultimately I will find justice, and things will be made right. Even though it’s hard and hope gets thinner with each rejection. Sometimes, it can be very hard to remember myself of why I put myself through these procedures, and which hopes on any outcomes I have. The “hopes on any outcomes” raise some core philosophical questions for me… I really believe(d) in remedies.. yet they seem so far away. What if all procedures fail? Regarding my personal case, I am actually at the ultimate stages of proceeding options in the Netherlands, and they already ignored a Communication of the UN Special Rapporteurs on my case. What if they ignore any other body as well? What if all these legal procedures have no effect? What if my experiences and my voice keeps on being ignored? What does that mean for my activism? For my strategies? And for me as a person? These are such hard thoughts… In fact all of my activism is built around the belief that things can be made right. There must be a way to be heard. If I let go of that hope, I feel no more ground underneath my feet, no more goal to fight for, and no more life energy inside me. I really cannot bear the thought of accepting a cruel world that is so ignorant and inhuman. I cannot be part of that. Then my energy stops. So I resist to submit to such a reality. I have to stand up, and fight for what I believe in. I have to keep the hope alive, otherwise everything I stand for collapses. There must be a way to expose the injustices and make it right. I have to believe in it. I cannot advocate without believing in change. So I nurture my hopes and my beliefs, since they give me the ground under my feet, something to fight for, and the strength to carry on. I know what is right and what is wrong.

So it is taking some time to puzzle back the pieces of shattered hope, but I have done it many times before. In fact, my entire activism started just from hope in the darkness, and despite the Dutch disappointments, I came far already. Who knows what I can do in another 10-20 years….
Even when all paths would be ending, then I will just go further from there.. I have paved my own ways before, and I can do it again if I have to. So even when the procedures won’t work, I will pave another way. Clearly, my goal stays the same: abolition of forced psychiatry, because it is inhuman. It is a tough battle.

So these Dutch developments were quite disturbing to me. And all of this happened just days before going to the EDF Board meeting in Malta. I was in fact hesitating whether I should go there at all, because I felt blown off my feet and missing solid ground under my feet, due to the Dutch circumstances.

But I am glad I went to the EDF meeting in Malta, where I tried to forget the Dutch disasters a bit. It was a good experience to feel myself surrounded with other activists, and to enjoy the nice surroundings as well. They recognize me as an expert, and EDF took care of all my costs. That is surely a form of recognition. It was a clear reminder that there is still a world beyond the Dutch disappointments. Not everyone ignores me. My voice isn’t in vain at all places. I am somebody, and my actions matter to some. There still is hope. It was an empowering experience in that regard.

Yet back home in the Netherlands, the ground underneath my feet was still somewhat missing. It just isn’t a light issue for anyone to be ignored so deeply. It is very disturbing. But I am already in a healing process, and writing this blog also helps. I am finding words to express this pain. It helps. I know I am not alone. And sharing helps. And giving up is not an option for me.

I remember a wise advise, which freely interpreted says to focus on allies rather than enemies, because change isn’t made by the rejectionists, but by the progressive ones. Indeed I shouldn’t get drained by negative attitudes of rejectionists. There are plenty of progressive people willing to change the world with me.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has” [Margaret Mead]

And I know I am not alone. There is a growing number of people on my side.
Hope is already coming back to me.

Slowly, I am getting back on my feet, and recovering from the harsh disappointments. I am still furious about the ignorance and the rejections by the system, but I also have hope. And it is bringing back my energy, as an inspiration. It is a treasure to be connected to people who understand this. We will change the world together.

So this is what is occupying my mind, and why my blog report on the EDF Board meeting in Malta is a bit delayed (as was my luggage on my flight home, but that got delivered eventually). I am managing to cope with the Dutch disappointments, and I am nurturing my hopes and dreams, to reload myself, and to get the solid ground back under my feet, to be able to carry on with the next step of trying to find justice in the Netherlands, and make things right for real. I will find it one day. I have hope that right will win from wrong.

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