U.N. Rapporteur on Torture Calls for Ban on Forced Treatment


In a statement to a session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on March 4, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment of Punishment called for a ban on forced psychiatric interventions including forced drugging, shock, psychosurgery, restraint and seclusion, and for repeal of laws that allow compulsory mental health treatment and deprivation of liberty based on disability, including when it is motivated by “protection of the person or others.”

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Kermit Cole
Kermit Cole, MFT, founding editor of Mad in America, works in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a couples and family therapist. Inspired by Open Dialogue, he works as part of a team and consults with couples and families that have members identified as patients. His work in residential treatment — largely with severely traumatized and/or "psychotic" clients — led to an appreciation of the power and beauty of systemic philosophy and practice, as the alternative to the prevailing focus on individual pathology. A former film-maker, he has undergraduate and master's degrees in psychology from Harvard University, as well as an MFT degree from the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia. He is a doctoral candidate with the Taos Institute and the Free University of Brussels. You can reach him at [email protected].


  1. Forced treatment for “mental illness” has been defined as a war crime for some time by a UN convention to which the USA is signatory. Lack of respect for and failure to enforce laws already on the books is the real issue. See below.


    The United States is a signatory to a United Nations convention that obligates any signatory nation to take a violator, one believed to have been involved in torture in any manner, into custody. Any American involved in the apprehension, detention, interrogation or prosecution of anyone who was subjected to any pain and suffering, mental or physical, is considered a war criminal and subject to arrest.

    Article 1

    For the purposes of this Convention, torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

    This article is without prejudice to any international instrument or national legislation which does or may contain provisions of wider application.

    Article 15

    Each State Party shall ensure that any statement which is established to have been made as a result of torture shall not be invoked as evidence in any proceedings, except against a person accused of torture as evidence that the statement was made.

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  2. Commendable but in all honesty, I don’t think it will go very far. Let’s not forget that psychiatry’s two pillars are money (Big Pharma and greedy psychiatrists) and politics (governments’ desire for social control). No government is going to give up the ability to “scientifically” incarcerate people it doesn’t like.

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  3. The United States tends to use the U.N. when it supports our purposes and we totally ignore, or pay lip service to it, when it doesn’t suit our purposes. I expect that our government will choose to ignore this or find some reason why it can’t abide by it. It sounds great and I admire the man for putting this together, but this country won’t abide by it at all.

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    • “This country,” splits into sub-groups and there will be people who will take note of this that would not take note of other arguments such as Whittaker’s arguments on the effectivenss of the drugs.

      To win it is necersarry to influence as many people in as many groups as possible. There will be some USA politicians and some human rights groups and some disability activists who could be moved by this and therefore it could help build a larger social/political force

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