The Netherlands: Not enough done to prevent ill-treatment of people deprived of their liberty in health settings

September 23, 2013


In the framework of the Open Society Foundations campaign Stop Torture in Health Care, the University of Groningen conducted a study on the implementation of the torture convention with regards to health care in the Netherland. The results will be shared at an afternoon meeting (in Dutch) at the University of Groningen on Thursday 31 October 2013.

The research project was carried out by the Department of International Law and Constitutional Law of the Faculty of Law. Adriaan van Es, co-ordinator of IFHHRO, was a member of the Advisory Board.

The global campaign Stop Torture in Health Care of the Open Society Foundations aims to end violations of human rights and ill-treatment in health-care settings. It aims to enhance the responsibility of governments for ill-treatment in care institutions. Under the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture (OPCAT) States parties are required to designate so-called National Preventive Mechanisms (NPMs) to monitor and conduct regular visits to places of detention and make recommendations to the authorities for improvements in the treatment of persons deprived of their liberty and their conditions of detention. The NPMs also focus on health-care settings. Persons deprived of their liberty in health-care settings may include the elderly, especially those with dementia, people with an intellectual disability and people with a psychiatric disorder.

Lack of awareness

This research focuses on the functioning of these mechanisms in the Netherlands with respect to health-care settings. Based on a set of interviews with relevant stakeholders the researchers conclude that although a very positive framework has been laid for the functioning of the designated NPMs, more efforts need to be made for the NPMs to come to a better exercise of their tasks. “The NPMs have in principle the expertise and competences for what is required of an NPM; however they have not changed anything in their approach since their designation as an NPM. For instance, they do not carry out specific ‘NPM visits’, but rather consider that their regular inspection visits are sufficient to qualify as an NPM. This may denote a lack of awareness of the fact that NPMs under the OPCAT become part of an international framework of preventive bodies.”

Download the report Implementing the Torture Convention: protecting human dignity and integrity in healthcare. The functioning of the NPMs in the Netherlands with respect to persons deprived of their liberty residing in healthcare settings (2013)