Disability World
A bimonthly web-zine of international disability news and views • Issue no. 27 December 2005 - January 2006

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European Union Calls on Turkey to Improve Rights of People with Mental Disabilities

On September 28, following a two-year investigation, Mental Disability Rights International (MDRI) released a report detailing the human rights abuses perpetrated in Turkey against children and adults with psychiatric and developmental disabilities. Behind Closed Doors: Human Rights Abuses in the Psychiatric Facilities, Orphanages and Rehabilitation Centers of Turkey describes the widespread use of ECT treatment on psychiatric patients – including children – without the use of anesthesia. Investigators also found evidence of children dying from starvation, dehydration and lack of medical care in so-called rehabilitation centers.

Locked away and out of view
Locked away and out of public view, people with psychiatric disorders as well as people with intellectual disabilities, such as mental retardation, are subjected to treatment practices that MDRI found are tantamount to torture. Inhuman and degrading conditions of confinement are widespread throughout the Turkish mental health system. This report documents Turkey's violations of the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture (ECPT), the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and other internationally accepted human rights and disability rights standards.

In October, the country was again stunned when video aired on Turkish television depicting toddlers being beaten at a state-run orphanage in Malatya. Province.

EU voiced concern in November
On November 9, the European Union (EU) responded by voicing their concern in the annual Turkey accession 2005 progress report:

"Turkey has no mental health law and community care for the mentally disabled is scarce, with the result that individuals are often unnecessarily institutionalized. The use of electroconvulsive or "shock" therapy (ECT) without anesthesia has been reported. There are also reports of a lack of rehabilitation treatment, the unnecessary use of physical restraints and the inadequate feeding of persons in rehabilitation centers and orphanages."

MDRI comments about human rights of people with disabilities
"It is extremely important that the EU has raised concerns about the human rights of people with disabilities in Turkey," said Eric Rosenthal, Executive Director of MDRI.

"Abuses that take place behind the closed doors of institutions are all too often overlooked by the public and international oversight bodies. By raising these concerns, the EU report ensures that egregious abuses against children and adults with mental disabilities will be taken into account as Turkey applies for EU accession."

MDRI is an international advocacy organization dedicated to the human rights and full participation in society of people with mental disabilities worldwide. For a copy of the report or to view video clips and photographs, visit http://www.mdri.org.

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