Torture in health-care settings

March 31, 2014

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One year ago, in March 2013, the Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez presented his thematic report on abusive practices in health-care settings to the Human Rights Council. A new publication released by the Center of Human Rights & Humanitarian Law (Washington College of Law, American University, March 2014) compiles articles from prominent experts commenting on this thematic report.

In his report, the Special Rapporteur on Torture (SRT) described a number of abusive practices commonly reported in health-care settings. In this sense, he analysed practices such as compulsory detention for medical treatment, violations of reproductive rights, denial of pain treatment, and treatment of persons with psycho-social disabilities and some marginalized groups, including LGBTI, persons who use drugs, and sex workers, and how these ‘treatments’ may constitute a violation of the prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.

Torture in health care

The Washington College of Law publication, entitled ‘Torture in Healthcare Settings: Reflections on the Special Rapporteur on Torture’s 2013 Thematic Report’, aims to contribute to the worldwide debate that followed the release of the SRT’s report. Section I of this volume provides a broad overview of the problem of torture and ill-treatment in health-care settings worldwide. The unique context of detention in health-care settings is explored, and the interplay between the right to health framework in international human rights law and the prohibition against torture and ill-treatment are addressed.

Section II addresses the challenges posed by the treatment of persons with psychosocial and mental disabilities, with a particular view to questions of legal capacity and informed consent for psychiatric treatment and interventions. This section also examines the impact of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), its emerging role in international human rights and disability law, and its interaction with the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT).

Section II also includes several articles addressing abuses committed against marginalized groups and vulnerable persons. The issue of prevalent discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation is addressed. The abusive treatment of people institutionalized for drug dependence in some parts of the world, and the implications of the denial of pain treatment for palliative care, are discussed in the final two articles.

Download the report of the Special Rapporteur

Access Torture in Healthcare Settings: Reflections on the Special Rapporteur on Torture’s 2013 Thematic Report