In 1997, the United Nations proclaimed 26th June the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture to remind us that freedom from torture is absolute under the international law and it cannot be justified under any circumstances. Today we remember all the victims of torture and emphasize the importance of abolishing such practices. Legal capacity deprivations greatly increase the likelihood of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, writes Biljana Janjic.
Persons with disabilities in residential and psychiatric institutions are often exposed to inhuman and degrading treatment which can amount to torture as documented by many international organizations and recognized by international treaty bodies and Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment. Persons with disabilities are subjected to torture usually in the forms of forced medical treatment, institutionalization, isolation and solitary confinement, sexual violence, forced abortion or sterilization, forms of physical or medicament restraint under the pretext of therapeutic or disciplinary purposes. If these persons are deprived of legal capacity, they are placed in institutions without consent and deprived of the right to self-determination and making decisions about medical treatment. Major success and shift in perspective was the consensus of the international community that the application of such measures can never be justified as a medical necessity or treatment, because they inflict pain and suffering to persons with disabilities and constitute inhuman treatment.
[…] States must adopt legislation that recognizes the legal capacity of persons with disabilities and must ensure that, where required, they are provided with the support needed to make informed decisions.
From its foundation, Disability Rights International and Mental Disability Rights Initiative MDRI-S monitor human rights of persons with disabilities in institutions and calls upon national and international actors to take measures and stop inhuman and degrading treatment, intensify deinstitutionalization and realization of human rights of persons with disabilities. MDRI-S is a part of Serbian National Preventive Mechanism for Torture mandated to the Protector of Citizens (Ombudsman) and it monitors the position of persons with disabilities deprived of liberty in residential institutions. Several times, non-governmental organizations, independent institutions and international treaty bodies urged the state to end the practice of inhuman treatment of persons with disabilities in institutions. In May 2015, Committee against Torture issued Concluding observations and recommended to Serbia to “amend the legislation to prohibit the use of seclusion on children and persons with mental and psycho-social disabilities,” while also highlighting the urgent development of community-based services and deinstitutionalization and ensure conditions for an adequate return of persons with mental and psycho-social disabilities to the community.
Read MDRI-S 2013 publication showing the segregation and neglect of children and adults with disabilities in institutions in Serbia – “The Hidden and Forgotten”
 Interim report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, A/63/175, United Nations General Assembly, 28 July 2008
This document has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union. The contents of this document are the sole responsibility of PERSON (Partnership to Ensure Reforms of Supports in Other Nations) and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union.