Expanding the Definition of the Right to Mental Health: Attending to Victims of Political Violence and Armed Conflict in Their Communities of Origin
Essex Review of Human Rights, Vol. 2, No. 1, pp. 38-56, 2005
19 Pages Posted: 29 Sep 2008
Date Written: September 28, 2008
The right to mental health waits to gain universal recognition. States have ignored it, following the general trend of relegating economic, social and cultural rights secondary to civil and political rights. The article examines how in the last decade several movements have brought this right to the foreground, in particular efforts to protect the rights of the mentally disabled, refugees and displaced persons. It discusses how, as a result, institutions of the United Nations (UN), including the General Assembly, Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, the UN Commission of Human Rights and the World Health Organization have become more active in addressing the right to physical and mental health, for example appointing Paul Hunt as Special Rapporteur on Health. The authors argue that these inroads on the right to mental health limit the definition and vision of mental health. In particular, in countries undergoing post-conflict recovery there is the need to attend to the mental health of victims of serious human rights violations. However, until now there has been no clear international policy or plan of action on how to address this problem. Calling for more international discussion on this topic, the authors hope to contribute to the movement by exploring different dimensions of mental health and by identifying three possible origins of a violation of the right to mental health. The authors present scenarios where a State fails to prevent the violation of the right to mental health and its related issues, as well as the state's corresponding obligation to provide mental health reparations. They call for an expansion of the concept of the right to mental health on the international agenda, and offer suggestions on how this effort may begin. Having conducted a study on the right to mental health for victims of Peru's internal armed conflict, the authors will use examples from Peru to illustrate different observations and conclusions.
Keywords: reparations, mental health, right to health, human rights, truth commission, conflict
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