Since 2014, under the mandate received from member states of the Council of Europe, the DH-BIO Committee of the Council of Europe has been working on a draft additional protocol to the Oviedo Convention concerning the protection of human rights and dignity of “persons with mental disorders”.
If adopted, this protocol would greatly undermine the rights of persons with disabilities:
- Its text and spirit violate the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), that has been ratified by 46 of the 47 Member States of the Council of Europe, including all the Member States of the European Union;
- It would lead to further institutionalisation and forced treatment. These practices are condemned by the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities;
- It would create a legal conflict between the obligations of States at the regional level (Council of Europe) and at the international level (CRPD).
The #WithdrawOviedo Campaign
Autism-Europe, along with the European Disability Forum, the European of (Ex)-Users and Survivors of Psychiatry , Mental Health Europe, Inclusion Europe and the International Disability Alliance, call for the immediate withdrawal of the draft additional protocol to the Oviedo Convention. We urge States to focus on and develop alternatives measures to forced treatment and institutionalisation, in collaboration with organisations of persons with disabilities.
Our opposition to the additional protocol is shared by international experts, such as:
- Commissioner of Human Rights of the Council of Europe
- Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
- UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
- UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health
- UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities
- UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
In September 2017, they sent a joint letter to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe opposing the draft additional protocol. In 2016, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe had already recommended to withdraw the draft.
We welcome the opposition expressed by the States of Bulgaria, Portugal and the North Macedonia and remain available to provide further information to Council of Europe member states on the discriminatory nature of this draft protocol and the many alternatives possible in compliance with the CRPD.
In March 2021, an online advocacy toolkit against the draft additional protocol to the Ovideo Convention was presented by the European Disability Forum (EDF) and Mental Health Europe (MHE) at an event on ending coercion in mental health healthcare.
To support this campaign, you can:
- Participate in our Twitter #WithdrawOviedo;
- Contact the relevant ministries (foreign ministry, health, social affairs and inclusion), raise the issue and tell your government why they should oppose the adoption of the draft and ratification of the protocol;
- Send us updates on the position of their government on the additional protocol and any work organisations of persons with disabilities undertook at this regards;
- Print and share among your networks the campaign’s handout.
What has been the response of the Council of Europe?
Despite our efforts to engage with the Council of Europe, our views have not been taken into account. In May 2018, we sent an open letter to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe to express our disapproval.
The Council explained that, as long as Member States do not oppose – more particularly the Council of Ministers representing Member States – the Committee on Bioethics will continue working on the draft.
While the drafting process continues various reports between 2018 and 2020 from the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of everybody to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health as well as the UN Human Rights council expressed their concerns with involuntary treatment. Also in June 2019, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe unanimously adopted a resolution on ending coercion in mental healthcare, calling member states to immediately start the transition to the abolition of coercive practices in mental health settings. That is why on 15 September 2020, Autism-Europe joined together with the European Disability Forum and 15 other human rights organisations to re-address the issues of withdrawing this additional protocol.
The Oviedo Convention
Council of Europe’s Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine, better known as the Oviedo Convention, is a European legally binding instrument on the protection of human rights in the biomedical field. It establishes that human rights must come before other considerations in the field of biomedicine. It lays down a series of principles and prohibitions concerning bioethics, medical research, consent, rights to private life and information, organ transplantation, public debate, etc.
Despite its name, the “Draft Additional Protocol concerning the protection of human rights and dignity of persons with a mental disorder with regard to involuntary placement and involuntary treatment” would not protect such persons and would authorize some forms of involuntary placement and treatment of persons with disabilities.