UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

In December 2008, the law on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities of December 13, 2006 was passed in Germany (see the minutes of the 193rd session of the Bundestag, there page 20855a – d).

The draft law itself and the accompanying memorandum can be found at the following link: www.bmas.de

Shortly before the end of 2008, Germany ratified (= bindingly signed) the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This convention is seen as a real milestone for the rights to self-determination and equal participation in society and against discrimination. It was drafted in an international process with the participation of many disability associations, including associations of people with psychiatric disabilities.

However, the usefulness of the ratified convention in Germany is far from certain: A “memorandum” that could be officially attached to the text of the convention considerably diminishes its significance, the German translation that has been officially preferred so far is much worse than the original English text, and there is as yet no plan at all to implement the convention in all areas of society.

For those diagnosed as “mentally ill,” these ambiguities are dramatic. They, too, are classified as disabled and are subject to multiple discriminations. And: the special “mentally ill laws” in the German states are not compatible with the UN Convention. They would have to be abolished, since the convention is legally binding as soon as it is ratified!!Our association has therefore decided to address the members of the Bundestag and the Bundesrat with an open letter shortly before the ratification:

Berlin, beginning of December 2008

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

we are pleased that the Federal Republic of Germany will ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Optional Protocol.

However, due to the memorandum attached to the draft law, we fear that the real implementation of the human rights for people with disabilities laid down in the UN Convention is in jeopardy.

The memorandum negates the need for action that also arises for Germany from the Convention. We ask you to advocate that the memorandum be changed or removed from the legislative process. With the interpretations that the memorandum proposes, the historic opportunity for equal rights and protection of the human rights of people with disabilities is being missed.

Second, we ask you to advocate that the German translation be revised. The German translation weakens the original text in many points and does not reproduce it word for word. Advocate that the translation be corrected and that the strengths of the original text be preserved in German.

Third, we ask you to advocate for a national action plan that regulates the necessities for reviewing and adapting laws and structures and identifies the need for action in Germany. In this process – as in the international process – the national NGOs of persons with disabilities should be involved.

The Verein zum Schutz vor psychiatrischer Gewalt e.V. (Association for Protection against Psychiatric Violence) is an affected-controlled association that advocates for people affected by psychiatry. The UN Convention sets milestones in the right to unrestricted legal capacity and agency of people with disabilities, the right to self-determination and the right to freedom from torture and inhuman treatment! These rights must be implemented, the current mental health laws contradict the UN Convention and must be put to the test!

The Note of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the occasion of the “Dignity and Justice for Detainees Week” (October 6-12, 2008) comes to the following statement:

“The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) clearly states that deprivation of liberty based on the existence of a disability is contrary to international human rights law, is intrinsically discriminatory, and is therefore unlawful. Such unlawfulness also extends to situations where additional grounds – such as the need for care, treatment and the safety of the person or the community – are used to justify deprivation of liberty.”

Stand up for the human rights of people affected by psychiatry and other people with disabilities, plead for the deletion of the memorandum without replacement, for a correction of the translation and a national action plan that ensures that the UN Convention is really implemented in Germany!

Yours sincerely,

Stefan Bräunling

on behalf of the 43 members of our association

Away with the torture of people in Germany according to the Mental Health Act!

Psychiatry-experienced and supporters demonstrate in front of the building of the Senate Administration for Health, Social Affairs and Consumer Protection in Berlin

A new UN Convention (UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities) is supposed to guarantee the rights of disabled people to self-determination. It is to be ratified soon with us. In Germany, this convention contradicts prevailing state law, including the Berlin Mental Health Act (PsychKG Bln). (see also Legal opinion of the lawyers Wolfgang Kalek, Sönke Hilbrans and Sebastian Scharmer, 2007)

The PsychKG Bln legalizes the arbitrary incarceration of people maligned as “mentally ill” who are forcibly diagnosed and forcibly treated without the right to effectively say “no.”

With the ratification of the Convention, those politically responsible want to guarantee the prevailing practice of torture in psychiatric hospitals, homes, etc. under the pretext of alleged curative treatment, in order to be able to continue it unchanged. (On the concept of torture see Alice Halmi, Forced Psychiatry – A Torture System, 2005)

Therefore we demand:

Either the coercion and violence legalizing parts of the PsychKG Berlin must have been deleted before the ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, because they are not compatible with the Convention, or the PsychKG must be abolished completely! The presence of a disability justifies in NO case a deprivation of liberty.
Art. 14 b) UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Away with the special laws for the mentally ill! Immediately!

Supporting this call:
Antipsychiatric and affected-controlled information and advice center
Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft Psychiatrie-Erfahrener e.V.
Irren-Offensive e.V.
Landesverband Psychiatrie-Erfahrener Berlin-Brandenburg e.V.
Verein zum Schutz vor psychiatrischer Gewalt e.V.
Komitee für Grundrechte und Demokratie e.V.
Werner-Fuss-Zentrum GbR

Call flyer as PDF file for download

To enforce our demand we called for a permanent demonstration. From September 3 to November 28, 2008, we gathered every weekday from 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. in front of the headquarters of the Berlin Senator for Health, Social Affairs and Consumer Protection, Brückenstr. 6, to express our displeasure.

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