CRPD Defeated in Senate – What Now?


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 of the family, and they won over enough Senators to have their way.  On the other hand, a majority of the disability community supported ratification with extensive reservations, understandings and declarations and claimed that ratification would require no change to U.S. law.  The Center for the Human Rights of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry (CHRUSP) and other psychiatric survivor groups along with human rights organizations were a “third force” objecting to the RUDs and calling for full adherence and implementation of the treaty as written.  We know that U.S. law needs to be changed and we cannot accept the carving out of state guardianship and civil commitment/forced treatment laws that violate the CRPD.

It is an odd situation where a battle is fought for seemingly symbolic reasons on most sides, without acknowledging what is really at stake.  The disability groups lobbying for CRPD “as reported,” i.e. with the RUDs, have never made a convincing case for what they really aim to achieve.  Is there really a substantial constituency of people with disabilities that believes U.S. ratification is an act of charity and good will towards our counterparts in other countries, to benevolently cooperate in lifting them up to our standards?  Do they see some hidden potential in using the treaty, even with RUDs, to improve our own human rights situation in the U.S.?  Who benefits from a superficial ratification that makes no commitment to human rights at home?  These questions remain unanswered but I have in an earlier blog post voiced my suspicions regarding foreign aid and projects in other countries.

The fundamentalists similarly were unconvincing, saying that CRPD was bad for parents since it incorporated a standard of “best interests of the child.”  These groups do not appear to be agitating for removal of the “best interest” standard from U.S. law, and they have not proposed an alternative concept or formulation.  The real issue seems to be a fear that human rights treaties will bring about a world government, considered by some Christians to be the work of the Antichrist.

The CRPD, together with the Convention on the Rights of the Child (which fundamentalist groups have also prevented from being ratified), recognizes that children themselves have human rights including the right to have a say in what happens to them.  Children with disabilities are being tortured and abused in all kinds of institutional systems from mental health to residential treatment to juvenile justice to the notorious Rotenberg Center.

The non-psychiatric survivor disability community has a second chance now perhaps, to reassess strategy and approach to human rights, but it does not appear that they are budging from the line that CRPD is only for people with disabilities in other countries and requires no change to U.S. law.  That is too bad, because there is a lot for all people with disabilities in this treaty, which goes far beyond the ADA.

As for us, our people – we ourselves – are still being tortured in psychiatric institutions and in outpatient commitment.  We are living with the memories and their effects in our lives.  There are hardly any places to talk about this and when we do it can be overwhelming and go in a loop of pain that never ends.  Like all forms of oppression.  The general public everywhere believes that sometimes it’s “necessary” to lock someone up for their own good and for everyone else’s good…  (the CRPD forbids this, so it’s even more ironic that fundamentalists latch onto the “best interests of the child” piece).  And they believe that there is something wrong and shameful about a person who has been fingered by psychiatry, fingered by their parents or neighbors, as nuts.  The social withdrawal IS the shaming and it doesn’t end, society believes its own lies.  Untangling this web of pain and abuse is necessary and entails the abolition of legalized force and confinement in psychiatry, as prescribed by the CRPD for all countries.

Please contact CHRUSP [email protected] if you are interested in exploring how to use the human rights framework to abolish forced psychiatry.  The CRPD standards live on so long as we fight for them.








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  1. I’m not convinced that ratifying the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities would be a good thing for users/survivors of psychiatry. It is a complex issue with many potential unknown ramifications. If I have objections to UN policies I do not need to be equated to “right wing fundamentalists” and Bible-belt Christians. If you are trying to build consensus and respect for a marginalized group of people, using stereotypes and pejoratives against half of the US population is not the best tactic.

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    • I also would like to hear your reasons for not supporting something like this. She points out a very prevalent problem that is very true in the Buckle of the wonderful Bible Belt where I live. The “right wing fundamentalists” and the “Bible-Belt Christians” as she refers to them are two of the largest groups against giving psychiatric survivors any kind of rights at all. They insist on making sure that we are taken care of through forced treatment. And they smugly do so while they say that they’re doing it for “our own good.” What a bunch of hogwash!

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      • “The “right wing fundamentalists” and the “Bible-Belt Christians” as she refers to them are two of the largest groups against giving psychiatric survivors any kind of rights at all. They insist on making sure that we are taken care of through forced treatment. And they smugly do so while they say that they’re doing it for “our own good.””

        Sounds like they’re judging (and condemning), as if they live in Paradise and the rest of us are trying to escape Hell.

        It’s been how many years since black people and white people could face each other, “legally”?

        “Women” are now approved as acceptable (circa what?)
        “Blacks” are now approved as acceptable (circa what?)
        “Gays” are now approved as acceptable (circa what?)

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    • Hey Emma, I like your name!

      Hmmm, okay, specifics, huh? Well, my mind is moving in many directions all at once, and I’m not a spokesperson for any kind of soapbox speech but…

      Why did Tina do a post just a few weeks ago entitled “Why do so few people know that CRPD prohibits forced psychiatry?” if it weren’t true? Maybe the issue is getting people to know that and why that is important.

      I’m a survivor and I’m against forced treatment. I see treating mental distress with the bio model of psychiatry as a failed paradigm of care. I believe in alternatives, in choice, autonomy, and self-determination. Along these lines, I don’t want my rights dictated to me from above at the UN level. I want real alternatives in my local area, which currently don’t exist.

      I’m against mental health parity as I believe this legitimizes mental distress as a medical problem and further encourages looking for medical solutions. I believe that the goal of industrialized countries is to take our standard of psychiatry and its approved treatments to the rest of the world, which I’m not in favor of.

      What would be good for users/survivors of psychiatry would be more creative problem-solving of our issues and a voice, and the best place I’ve found for that is MIA.

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      • Emily,

        I stand by my language based on what I understand about the groups opposing the CRPD. If you are not a fundamentalist right-wing Christian and oppose the treaty I would say you are just ill-informed.

        What I wrote here about the CRPD prohibiting forced psychiatry is exactly true. That is why we need it ratified without any reservations, understandings or declarations.

        In fact, the U.S. is now taking our standard of psychiatry to the rest of the world. Ratifying the CRPD, particularly without the RUDs, will actually give those of us who oppose the globalization of psychiatry a platform and hook to oppose it.


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      • The fact is, is that they’ve already been successful in exporting our biopsychiatry rubbish to the rest of the world. The drug companies were at the head of the band. Within ten years they were able to introduce the idea of depression into the Japanese culture, which never had such a concept. Now they’re all on antidepressants just like here in America. The list of cultures and countries where this has happened, under the guidance of the drug companies goes on and on. The only areas of the world which have been able to reist so far are those places where shamanism and healers still have the faith and respect of the common people. But the drug companies and biopsychiatry will have their way with them before it’s all over with.

        I also like creative problem-solving to deal with issues like ours, but the only way we seem to be able to get things done in our country is to codify things into laws and then require people to measure up to them. Biopsychiatry and the drug companies are going to stomp all over us and our creative problem-solving unless we have something to hould them accountable to.

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  2. The right wing fundamentalists are obviously psychotic. What stops them from being labelled and forcibly injected? Power in numbers. I’m not being sarcastic. It’s ironic that psychosis exists so strongly in the masses and yet only 1-2% of the lowest in the social order are ever officially considered psychotic.

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    • I think that you’ve pointed out a very important thing. The poor and the disenfranchised have a difficult time defending themselves and end up the target of all kinds of things. But the right wing fundamentalists remain free to do as they do. At the very least many of them fit the label of being delusional.

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  3. Hi, Tina. What’s next? Gear up for the next Congress. Harry Reid said he’s bring the treaty to the floor again. As if you didn’t know!!
    Interestingly, I was ambivalent towards the treaty at first, principally because the U.N. is so maligned in this country that everything it does is suspect. For my part, I have followed with great dismay its “peacekeeping efforts”, which usually don’t keep the peace and often serve as cover for Western/U.S. imperialist adventures.
    What turned me around was a brief article I read by Bernadette McSherry, an Aussie, published in Psychrights earlier this year entitled “Time to Rethink Mental Health Laws For Treatment Without Consent,” a particular interest of mine, if you read my post on ending Kendra’s Law a few ticks south of yours. Ms. Mcsherry writes about the impact that ratifying the CRPD has had in Australia: “… mental health law is moving away from substituted decision-making by clinicians towards putting supports in place to help people make their own treatment decisions…” As you might recall, there was a short-lived push in NYS in the ’90’s to use “advance directives’ to serve that purpose; but that quickly faded away in the face of provider resistance.
    McSherry proceeds to write about developments in Northern Ireland since the Brits ratified the Convention: “Northern Ireland has signalled it will abolish its mental health legislation and instead enact one capacity law for all those with severe mental and intellectual impairments … ” Unclear what that will mean in practice, but as McSherry points out, “the U.N. Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities called for the repeal of legislative provisions that allow for the deprivation of liberty on the basis of disability …”
    In short, there’s movement in the right direction. Passage of the treaty here in the U.S., despite claims of U.S. “exceptionalism” — again, a cover for imperialist adventures — will contribute to the examination and eventual repeal — we trust — of involuntary commitment laws in this country, inpatient and outpatient. Which is why I see ratification as important to building interest here in NY for a political struggle to end Kendra’s Law. Actually, if the folks who are beginning to talk about that could be recruited to assist your efforts, we would collectively benefit.
    Call for an assembly of all interested parties. Invite Dan Hazen; invite me; invite all your colleagues. Let’s get something going! As I usually end all my posts so I’ll end this commentary with “Don’t mourn, organize! Thanks, Tina, for taking the lead on this issue and understanding its significance from the outset.

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    • Jack,

      Thanks for your words of support. Actually the developments in Australia and Ireland fall far short of what is required, and from what I have seen amount to superficial changes. But significantly it has opened up the conversation about abolition of commitment and forced “treatment”.

      As for an assembly of interested parties, we do have a Campaign to Repeal Mental Health Laws that is a focal point of looking at these issues and how to make our goals a reality. Look for us on facebook and on the web and contact us if you are interested in getting more involved.

      Best wishes,


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  4. From the European Agency for Fundamental Rights
    The following 24 EU Member States have ratified the CRPD:

    Austria (ratified 2008, including the Optional Protocol)
    Belgium (ratified 2009, including the Optional Protocol)
    Bulgaria (ratified 2012)
    Cyprus (ratified 2011, including the Optional Protocol)
    Czech Republic (ratified 2009)
    Denmark (ratified 2009)
    Estonia (ratified 2012, including the Optional Protocol)
    France (ratified 2010, including the Optional Protocol)
    Germany (ratified 2009, including the Optional Protocol)
    Greece (ratified 2012, including the Optional Protocol)
    Hungary (ratified 2007, including the Optional Protocol)
    Italy (ratified 2009, including the Optional Protocol)
    Latvia (ratified 2010, including the Optional Protocol)
    Lithuania (ratified 2010, including the Optional Protocol)
    Luxembourg (ratified 2011, including the Optional Protocol)
    Malta (ratified 2012, including the Optional Protocol)
    Poland (ratified 2012)
    Portugal (ratified 2009, including the Optional Protocol)
    Romania (ratified 2011)
    Slovakia (ratified 2010, including the Optional Protocol)
    Slovenia (ratified 2008, including the Optional Protocol)
    Spain (ratified 2007, including the Optional Protocol)
    Sweden (ratified 2008, including the Optional Protocol)
    United Kingdom (ratified 2009, including the Optional Protocol)

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  5. The UN is just not that scary. The U.S. government typically acts as though it doesn’t like it because they can’t control it.

    The reality is that it membership is entirely voluntary and its hard pushed to get agreement on just about anything. So its criticized for being useless as it seeks consensus and being a scary monster at the same time.


    to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and
    to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and
    to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and
    to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,


    to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours, and
    to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and
    to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and
    to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples,

    Accordingly, our respective Governments, through representatives assembled in the city of San Francisco, who have exhibited their full powers found to be in good and due form, have agreed to the present Charter of the United Nations and do hereby establish an international organization to be known as the United Nations.

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