MAD LAW AND HUMAN RIGHTS

Tina Minkowitz is president and founder of the Center for the Human Rights of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry.  She is a lawyer as well as a survivor activist and represented the World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry in the drafting and negotiation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD.)  Ms. Minkowitz is internationally recognized as an expert on the CRPD and is credited with some of its most far-reaching provisions along with others who working together made it all possible.

Please see www.chrusp.org for more information; selected papers are also available on the Social Science Research Network (SSRN) at: http://ssrn.com/author=1348856.

Tina Minkowitz, Esq. Historic Moment for the Right to Legal Capacity

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April 12, 2014

On Tuesday April 8, 2014, the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities adopted its first General Comment, on Article 12 which deals with the issue of legal capacity.  It was a moment that brought tears to my eyes and I turned and hugged another woman who was crying – Raquel Jelinek from the Mexican group CONFE, which advocates for the rights of people with intellectual disabilities.  I had not expected the adoption to happen so quickly and had not expected my tears.
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Tina Minkowitz, Esq. Staying in the New Paradigm: More Thoughts on the Human Rights Committee Recommendation

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March 29, 2014

In my last post here I gave a detailed analysis of the Human Rights Committee’s recommendation to the United States to “generally” prohibit nonconsensual psychiatric interventions. I might not have been sufficiently clear about how I see the international human rights standards and the value of standards that we don’t agree with but that are higher than existing U.S. law and practice.
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Tina Minkowitz, Esq. UN: US Should “Generally Prohibit” Non-consensual Psychiatric Treatment

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March 29, 2014

The Human Rights Committee, a UN committee of experts that monitors the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, has issued a recommendation that the United States “generally” prohibit non-consensual psychiatric treatment, while going on to set out criteria for when “it may be applied, if at all.” It did not meet our expectations but marks progress. Keep our eyes on the prize: Use the recommendation to argue against any backsliding initiatives such as the Murphy Bill and the federal funding for outpatient commitment that has just passed the House in a bill on Medicare.
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Categorized in: Blogs, Coercion, Featured Blogs, Uncategorized

Tina Minkowitz, Esq. U.N. Questions U.S. on Forced Psychiatric Drugging

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March 15, 2014

UN Human Rights Committee member Ms. Zonke Majodina said on Friday during the Committee’s review of the United States: “I’m wondering whether any states have considered the ban which has been recommended by the Special Rapporteur on Torture made February last year, available on the UN website of documents. So given that it is really at state level that there is no compliance with the requirement to prohibit coercive treatments especially in mental health settings, I think the matter cannot just be left, there should be some form of good faith undertakings by federal government that these recommendations by UN bodies is taken seriously also at state level.”
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Tina Minkowitz, Esq. Reading Foucault and Human Rights

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February 15, 2014

I’ve just finished reading Michel Foucault’s book History of Madness.  It is a tour de force that is at times almost impossible to understand, but I find if I am patient the loose ends usually are brought back together.  It is also highly upsetting to read for me as someone who has been locked up as mad.  The layers of history that Foucault uncovers demonstrate conceptual as well as legal and social forms of exclusion that are with us to the present day, although some of them have become transformed over time.
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Tina Minkowitz, Esq. The Meaning of Legal Capacity is Equality

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January 2, 2014

Legal capacity is not the be-all and end-all of existence. Even in severely restricted circumstances the human spirit suffers, makes choices, and can even triumph. But most of us are not saints and prefer a bit more comfort in our circumstances – economic, legal, political and social – with greater opportunity to act and interact freely, make our own mistakes and cultivate lives that we value.
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Tina Minkowitz, Esq. The Story of Legal Capacity: Specificity and Intersections

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December 25, 2013

In this article I explore legal capacity as it has impacted my life, through the lens of a negative experience and a positive one. My aim is to encourage people to be aware that legal capacity is a social construct, it is not an inevitable fact of life and can be changed – indeed we are seeing it change before our eyes with respect to the particular act of marriage. Legal capacity is being similarly reshaped from a disability standpoint, in a much more comprehensive way. The story of legal capacity is the story of law in people’s lives.
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Tina Minkowitz, Esq. Statement to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on CRPD

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November 19, 2013

If the US wishes to maintain its reputation as a leader in the field of disability rights, it is not enough to assist other countries in building ramps and developing accessible technology. Those are laudable aims but are at best half of what the CRPD requires. There is a new world in disability rights, and the US risks being left behind unless there is a reversal of course that commits to full domestic implementation in compliance with standards that have been set by the international community with US participation.
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Tina Minkowitz, Esq. Mis- (and Dis-) Information about UN Disability Convention

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November 8, 2013

The November 5 hearing on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations reached new heights of absurdity and opens new ground for concern. It may be worse for us to ratify with the reservations, understandings and declarations (RUDs) being proposed, and with the legislative record that is being created for the specific purpose of rejecting any application of the treaty’s standards to US law than not to ratify at all. All the proponents of CRPD ratification who are allowed a voice in these discussions are in agreement that the US ratification is aimed ONLY at giving the US greater influence over other countries and over the development of customary international law, and NOT at improving the enjoyment of human rights by persons with disabilities in the US itself.
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Tina Minkowitz, Esq. UN Prohibition of Psychiatric Commitment: Review and Analysis

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October 13, 2013

On September 21, I posted here that the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities took a definitive stand against psychiatric commitment in its Concluding Observations on El Salvador and Austria.  The Committee held that the “danger to self or others” standard cannot legitimize psychiatric detention, and that all legislation authorizing such detention must be repealed. This is of huge significance, which I did not expand on in my earlier post.  Another set of Concluding Observations has now been released, this time on Australia, which gives me another opportunity to discuss what has happened.  I hope that both lawyers and non-lawyers will follow the discussion, since it has both legal and political implications.
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Tina Minkowitz, Esq. Psychiatric Profiling as Blood Libel

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October 2, 2013

We are seeing an increasing cycle of high-profile media stories linking an act of random multiple shooting to an allegation that the perpetrator is “mentally ill.” We have to understand that it is nothing more than a libel. It cannot be debated rationally, and every time we have tried to point out the the absence of evidence for a statistical linkage, these rational arguments have no effect; instead they almost seem to add fuel to the fire. I want to point out something about how profiling works and why it is always wrong.
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Tina Minkowitz, Esq. UN: Ensure No One is Detained in Any Kind of Mental Health Facility

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September 21, 2013

The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, authoritative body that interprets this treaty, has now confirmed beyond a shadow of a doubt that all mental health incarceration violates Article 14 of the CRPD. All governments should take notice, and incarcerated people and human rights defenders should take heart from this welcome development.
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Tina Minkowitz, Esq. Human Rights Report on
Forced Drugging in the U.S.

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September 14, 2013

In March, the United Nations Human Rights Committee asked the U.S. to explain how it sees nonconsensual medication in psychiatric institutions as being compliant with Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which prohibits torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment (including nonconsensual medical and scientific experimentation). A group of grass roots survivor activists have sent a report on forced drugging in the U.S (along with an executive summary) to the Committee.
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Tina Minkowitz, Esq. We Name It as Torture

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June 26, 2013

To respond to controversy and resistance developing in response to the recommendation of Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez for an absolute ban on nonconsensual psychiatric interventions, I suggested to use June 26, the International Day in Solidarity with Victims of Torture, to raise awareness and support for the recommendations. What started out way more ambitious became a relatively informal call put out over email lists, Facebook and with the help of the Mad In America website, to MIA bloggers.
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Tina Minkowitz, Esq. Thoughts on the Global
and U.S. Movements

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May 29, 2013

I’ve just returned from a meeting of 17 activists self-identified as users or survivors of psychiatry, or people with psychosocial disabilities, from all over the world. Literally all over the world. An international gathering of human rights defenders that makes me proud to be among them. It was a meeting where I felt heard and acknowledged and able to fully give what I had to give – to offer it up along with everyone else’s contributions for the common deliberation. I gave all and received all in return.
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Tina Minkowitz, Esq. Public Comment to the National Council on Disability on its Engagement with CRPD

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April 22, 2013

The National Council on Disability is holding an in-person public comment session on April 23 regarding its engagement with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. I have submitted the following comments on behalf of the Center for the Human Rights of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry (CHRUSP).
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Tina Minkowitz, Esq. The U.N. Asks the U.S. to Defend its Use of Forced Psychiatric Drugging

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April 4, 2013

The United Nations Human Rights Committee has asked the U.S. government to clarify how the possibilities for nonconsensual medication in psychiatric institutions comply with their obligations under Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – i.e. the obligation to ensure that no one is subjected to torture and ill-treatment. This is the fruit of successful advocacy by Maxima Kalitventsev and myself; we went to Geneva last month to meet with members of the Human Rights Committee and urge them to ask questions related to forced psychiatry and psychiatric profiling as violations of our human rights.
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Tina Minkowitz, Esq. After the Statement by the Special Rapporteur on Torture, Taking Stock of Where We Are

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March 28, 2013

The logic of equating forced psychiatry with torture is undeniable, it is a severe injury to the body, soul, mind and spirit, and it is only because of discrimination that such violence has enjoyed social and legal approval in western societies and unfortunately spreading throughout the world. The logic that comes from a non-discrimination analysis is rooted in our self-respect and pride, our unwillingness to let go of the last spark of identity and resistance that makes us who we are. Non-discrimination is advancing in the world, it represents the best of humanity and we are part of this truth.
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Tina Minkowitz, Esq. NCMHR Does Not Speak for Me

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January 19, 2013

I am appalled to read a press release by the National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery that lauds the proposals emerging from the Vice President’s Task Force and accepts in principle a national database of individuals with mental health diagnoses that is “limited to those with a known history of violence.”
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Tina Minkowitz, Esq. Day of Action to Stop Psychiatric Profiling: January 21, 2013

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January 18, 2013

As politicians, media, and pro-gun and anti-gun lobbies all converge to agree on one thing, that those of us labeled mentally ill are fair game for dumping blame on and restricting of our civil liberties and constitutional rights, despite the fact that there is no rational evidence for such profiling – our community is responding with grief and anger.
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Tina Minkowitz, Esq. Peace Making

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January 5, 2013

Many of us feel at a loss to fight back against the tidal wave of negative opinion against us. We are wasting our breath arguing that the vast majority of us never commit acts of violence, that the medical model fails everyone and coercion drives people away, etc.

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Tina Minkowitz, Esq. Grief, Peace; Not Profiling

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December 21, 2012

Like everyone else, I was shocked and stunned by the senseless mass killing of young children and adults in Newtown, Connecticut. The families and community deserve their chance to mourn and search for their own meaning and healing. However, I cannot be silent about the threats now being made against my community, as people respond to this act of terrible violence. The aggressive legislation against people labeled with psychiatric diagnoses that is being promoted by the NRA and by Representative Sensenbrenner, among others, is not a fit way to honor anyone’s life.
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Tina Minkowitz, Esq. CRPD Defeated in Senate – What Now?

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December 5, 2012

Yesterday December 4, 2012, the U.S. Senate failed to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities by a 2/3 vote.  Right wing fundamentalists had opposed the CRPD as a harbinger of world government and challenge to authority …
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Tina Minkowitz, Esq. Reparations: It is Conceivable

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December 3, 2012

Reparations for forced psychiatry is conceivable and is actually required under international law. Recent developments at the UN make it easier to make this argument, as detailed below.
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Tina Minkowitz, Esq. Why Do So Few People Know that CRPD Prohibits Forced Psychiatry?

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October 14, 2012

I believe that one of the underlying reasons it is difficult to move through the obstacles to fully embrace the CRPD (Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities) and fight for our rights, is that discrimination continues to affect us on many levels. We have accommodated in some ways to a system that hurts us – not just the mental health system but the legal system that supports these violent acts and the society that condones them. It can be painful to change, to shift gears, to move in different ways.
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