Many would argue that acts such as forced sterilization, prolonged restrictions, solitary confinement, and deprivation of food constitute serious abuses Human rights. When such abuses are committed by or with the consent of state officials, it is often torture. However, these practices are common routine in relation to the treatment of people with disabilities.
Disability Rights International (DRI) has documented these abuses in private and government institutions in a number of countries, including Serbia, Turkey, Mexicoand even in the United States. Manfred Nowak, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, reiterated these results and described the serious abuse of people with disabilities as “an invisible, unrecognized torture. “At least if this mistreatment does not constitute torture, it is still a clear violation of a number of human rights, including the right to health, the right to free movement, the right to freedom and the right to legal capacity in all areas of life, including the question whether medical treatment should be accepted.
What are the signs of torture?
There are four main elements leading to the recognition of an act as torture: intense pain, intent, purpose, and an act or omission by a government official. Prolonged use of shacklesWhen treating people with disabilities, this can often lead to muscle wasting, life-threatening deformities, psychological damage or even organ failure and death. Unmodified electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) performed without anesthesia, muscle relaxant, or oxygenation can cause and result in more severe pain severe medical consequences. Much of the other ill-treatment against people with disabilities has already been recognized as torture.
People with disabilities are the target of these serious abuses because of their disability. Whether or not the acts are carried out with “good intent” or under the guise of “medical necessity” is just as often out of date less intrusive or painful alternatives treatment could be used. There is also one trend of those acts carried out without free and informed consent; unmodified ECT and forced sterilization and abortions are Examples such acts. Eric RosenthalA DRI representative states that any act committed because of this discrimination is intended to be used to produce torture.
A helper helps pull a disabled Syrian refugee who has lost his leg to diabetes through the no man’s land between Macedonia and Serbia. (Jodi Hilton / IRIN)
Promote the concept of health refugees
Why do these grave abuses have to be recognized as torture? Reviving the ill-treatment of people with disabilities as torture can lead to better legal protection for people with disabilities and better access to legal remedies. In addition, a torture sentence can qualify the right to asylum on the basis of threats to life and liberty and other serious abuses if it is detained or treated by the state or state institutions. Refugee status is most commonly associated with those fleeing persecution of war, conflict, or government-sponsored genocide. It is a relatively new concept to look at refugee status outside of these common associations, but it is not unprecedented. There are increasing claims to refugee status through LGBTI peoplePrecedent for the application of refugee status to people with disabilities.
To be recognized as refugeeThere must be “a well-founded fear of persecution on the grounds of race, religion, nationality or membership of a particular social group or political opinion”. In the case of people with disabilities, they represent a social group that is often affected by social exclusion or stigmatization due to their disability. The abuses they suffer under government custody or in government institutions are the direct result of Discrimination due to their disability as they are performed under the guise of treatment.
Claims to refugee status would protect these people from being rejected or returned to their home country, where they would face further abuse. Lots refugees would have access to the same disability benefits as NationalsThis enables them to receive medical care and treatment that may not be available in their home country.
What about non-refugees elsewhere?
There is a serious lack of access to medical treatment for people with disabilities in many countries. Many people believe that disabilities are the result of sin, immoral behavior, or lack of faith. These factors cause many to seek treatment from traditional or religious healing centers, or are sometimes forced to turn to their families for care. In many countries, people with disabilities can face allegations of witchcraft. In one case in LiberiaSix people, including three children, were chained to tree trunks in a healing center because of these types of allegations.
In a religious institution in Kenya, a man with a psychosocial disability told the story Human Rights Watch“I’ve been chained for five years. The chain is so heavy … I am not allowed to wear any clothes, only underwear. I have to go to the bathroom in a bucket. I eat porridge in the morning and if I’m lucky I can find bread at night, but not every night … It’s not how a person is supposed to be. A person should be free. “
People with disabilities who are mistreated by private actors do not have the opportunity to apply for refugee status. If individuals can only apply for asylum if they are persecuted by the state, what can be done to protect those who do not fall into this category?
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities tries to protect people with disabilities from serious abuse, but it seems clear that many states have disability policies that grossly violate basic human rights obligations. Organizations like Human Rights Watch and Disability International must continue to maintain international pressure on states. In addition, states must take positive action to address the issue of social stigma.
There is an urgent need to devote more resources to mental health and disability services. Countries currently spend on average less than two percent their health budgets for mental health services. Many of these abuses could be addressed by increasing the budget allocation to ensure proper monitoring and surveillance. Legislation related to people with disabilities who violate human rights obligations needs to be addressed and replaced. There is an urgent need to increase protection for people with disabilities and states must be held accountable for violations. Otherwise, serious abuse, torture and even death will continue.
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