Mental Health and Due Process in the Americas: Protecting the Human Rights of Persons Involuntarily Admitted to and Detained in Psychiatric Institutions
Pan-American Journal of Public Health, Vol. 18, p. 366, 2005
10 Pages Posted: 24 Aug 2008
Date Written: 2005
In many countries in the region of the Americas, persons with mental disabilities can be involuntarily confined in psychiatric institutions for indefinite periods with hardly any justification and little or no oversight. Such circumstances clearly violate the human rights principles of liberty and due process found in binding international and regional legal instruments. Furthermore, the countries of the Americas generally have failed to adopt legislation or interpret constitutional provisions consistent with human rights principles and guidelines.
The oversight and monitoring mechanisms of the Inter-American Human Rights System can constitute an effective legal tool that can be used to promote and protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of persons with mental disabilities by supplementing existing national laws or serving as a method of regulation in places where national laws are not available. Countries should enact national laws that apply basic due process protections for individuals involuntarily confined in mental health facilities. This would help to ensure that individuals are not admitted and detained arbitrarily, that the person's mental disability is sufficiently serious to warrant involuntary confinement, and that the decision to admit and detain the person is reviewed expediently and periodically by an independent, impartial tribunal. We contend that a more vigorous application of human rights norms by the Inter-American Human Rights System is necessary to hold states accountable for their treatment of persons with mental disabilities and to lead them to enact legislation protecting the rights of persons with mental disabilities who are confined involuntarily in psychiatric facilities.
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By T. Koopmans