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15 April 2013

Croatia’s EU election is more important for some than others

Croatia voted yesterday to elect 12 Members of the European Parliament, in preparation for the country’s accession to the European Union on 1 July. The measly turnout of 20.74% indicates that most Croatians considered the election unimportant. But for around 16,000 people yesterday was the first time that they were treated like citizens.
25 March 2013

“Let me breathe, let me leave”: a song for Alex in Chisinau

In the Moldovan mental health system, voluntary means involuntary, consent means coercion, yes means no, and a safeguard means a rubber stamp. Reducing law into formalistic fiction creates an environment where healthcare staff mistreat patients to such an extent that some instances amount to torture. The new Moldovan government needs to abandon the focus on hospitals and instead ensure that law underpins autonomy, that budgets are oriented towards community-based supports, and that people with disabilities participate in monitoring human rights.
13 March 2013

The last utopia

Recently I read “The Last Utopia”, by Samuel Moyn, professor of history at Columbia University. It’s a scholarly work, rich with references (the endnotes take up nearly half the pages). Here are four things which I learned.
11 March 2013

Consent to ill-treatment

Psychiatry, religion and culture all assert considerable power over individuals. A human rights approach can rebalance this power. I want to address the question: should the law allow someone to consent to what she believes to be a cure, but what others consider to be “inhuman or degrading treatment” which is banned under international law?
6 March 2013

Nigeria’s lunatic laws and evil spirits: what place for human rights?

Traditional and spiritual healers deliver the bulk of mental health ‘services’ in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country. They profit from the populist belief that madness is caused by demonic possession. As a result people labelled as mad are hyper-stigmatised and families urgently want to rid the devil from their afflicted relative. Within this delusional belief system, beatings, lashings, burnings and rapes drive out the evil spirits. The colonial lunacy law provides precisely zero protections against arbitrary internment, chemical and physical restraints, and non-consensual electroshock in psychiatric hospitals. The tiny amount of psychiatrists are hospital-based and overstretched. Mental health services are largely absent from primary healthcare, save in some EU-funded pilot projects. Both the psychiatric and the traditional healing industries are unregulated, unmonitored and susceptible to corruption. Ill-treatment is carried out with impunity because perpetrators are never punished.

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