Greater efforts needed to combat torture and ill-treatment of persons with disabilities

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Today, the Equal Rights Trust marks International Day of Persons with Disabilities by calling for greater efforts to combat discriminatory torture and other forms of ill-treatment of persons with disabilities.

The Equal Rights Trust is committed to promoting equality of participation in all areas of civil, political, economic, social and cultural life and thus to eliminating all forms of discrimination, including on the basis of disability. In the course of our work in combating disability discrimination, the Trust has documented patterns of discrimination and disadvantage in a wide range of areas of life in countries including Belarus, Kenya, Malaysia, Sudan and Ukraine. Volume Nine (2012) of our Equal Rights Review focused on discrimination on the basis of disability.

However, on this day, we want to highlight one of the most severe patterns of discrimination affecting persons with disability: the torture and ill-treatment of those deprived of their liberty in a variety of institutions, from police stations and prisons to mental hospitals and homes. These people are amongst the least visible victims of discrimination in the world today. The Equal Rights Trust has undertaken research and litigation in several countries in an effort to expose and challenge discriminatory torture and ill-treatment of persons with disabilities.


We have worked closely with the Legal Defence and Assistance Project to support more than 50 survivors of torture and inhuman treatment to bring prosecutions against those responsible for their treatment and access medical and psychological support to deal with the consequences of their treatment. In the course of this work, we have supported persons with disabilities to help them challenge prison conditions which have not been adjusted to accommodate their needs.


In India, we have supported litigation of 13 cases related to discriminatory torture or inhuman treatment of persons with disabilities, including Reena Banerjee and others v Government of NCT of Delhi and others, concerning deaths and inhuman treatment in a mental health institution. In a strong decision in this case, the Supreme Court ordered that the Union of India and other competent state and union authorities be identified and then respond to allegations that they were failing to meet their obligations under the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995.


We are currently working in Jordan to document discriminatory torture and ill-treatment of persons with mental disabilities for a report which will be published next year. We are also supporting litigation to challenge inconsistencies in Jordanian law and allow the torture and ill-treatment of persons with disabilities to continue.

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