The right to liberty of persons with psychosocial disabilities at the United Nations: A tale of two interpretations

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Abstract

This article explores the current debate which exists within the United Nations human rights system regarding the right to liberty of persons with psychosocial disabilities. Article 14 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities states that the existence of a disability cannot be a justificatory ground for the involuntary detention of a person. In interpreting Article 14, the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has called for States Parties to repeal legislation which provides for detention based on the existence of a psychosocial disability, either solely or in combination with other factors such as a perceived dangerousness or need for treatment – essentially requiring the abolition of mental health laws. However, a number of other human rights bodies within the UN, including the Human Rights Committee, have continued to affirm the lawfulness of deprivations of liberty under mental health legislation in certain circumstances. This article will set out the current state of this discourse and conclude by making a determination on the governing legal interpretation of the right to liberty of persons with psychosocial disabilities under international law.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101497
JournalInternational Journal of Law and Psychiatry
Volume66
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 18 Oct 2019

Keywords

  • Deprivation of liberty
  • Mental health legislation
  • Psychosocial disability
  • Right to liberty and security of the person
  • Treaty interpretation
  • UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

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