International Human Rights and Mental Disability Law: When the Silenced are Heard

A recently published book (Oxford University Press) in the American Psychology-Law Society’s Book Series provides a great resource for academics, practitioners, legal scholars, and policy makers involved in mental health work, both nationally and internationally. This article provides a summary of the contents of the book and some brief comments about the book.

About the American Psychology-Law Society Book Series

The American Psychology-Law Society (APLS; Division 41 of the American Psychological Association) is an interdisciplinary organization devoted to scholarship, practice, and public service in psychology and law. Its goals include advancing the contributions of psychology to the understanding of law and legal institutions through basic and applied research; promoting the education of psychologists in matters of law and the education of legal personnel in matters of psychology; and informing the psychological and legal communities and the general public of current research, educational, and service activities in the field of psychology and law. APLS membership includes psychologists from the academic, research, and clinical practice communities as well as members of the legal community. Research and practice is represented in both the civil and criminal legal arenas. The APLS Book Series serves as an outlet for bringing the latest developments in psychology and law to the public and the psycholegal community. APLS has chosen Oxford University Press as a strategic partner because of its commitment to scholarship, quality, and the international dissemination of ideas. These strengths will help APLS reach its goal of educating the psychology and legal professions and the general public about important developments in psychology and law. The focus of the book series reflects the diversity of the field of psychology and law, as we will publish books on a broad range of topics.

Editor’s Comments about International Human Rights and Mental Disability Law: When the Silenced are Heard

As the current Editor of the APLS Book Series, it is my pleasure to get to work with authors in developing their proposals and their books for this series and to make a few comments about each of their books in the series forward. This book was accepted and developed by my predecessor, Professor Ronald Roesch, who edited the APLS Book Series prior to my tenure in this role, which began in 2009. In the series foreword for the book, Professor Roesch writes:

“With his current book, Professor Perlin demonstrates that the violations of human rights that he so forcefully identified in the United States are also prevalent in many countries throughout the world. Based on his analysis of law and practice, he highlights the pervasive problems that allow human rights violations to perpetuate. These include lack of comprehensive legislation, lack of independent counsel, inadequate care, lack of community programming, and inhumane forensic systems. He is not content to merely identify these human rights violations. He is an advocate and views his analysis of abuses as a foundation for his proposals for changes in law, policy, and practice that would improve the treatment of persons with mental disabilities. Indeed, creating change is at the heart of this book. As he cogently argues, it is essential that countries worldwide ‘devote themselves to significant and ameliorative reform of their mental health systems.’ I believe that this book will serve as a catalyst for the far0reaching changes that will ultimately establish Professor Perlin’s call for a constitutionally based mental disability law jurisprudence.”

Publisher’s Description

Society is largely blind-often willfully blind-to the ongoing violations of international human rights law when it comes to the treatment of persons with mental disabilities. Despite a robust set of international law principles, standards and doctrines, and the recent ratification of the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, people with mental disabilities continue to live in some of the harshest conditions that exist in any society. These conditions are the product of neglect, lack of legal protection against improper and abusive treatment, and social attitudes that demean, trivialize and ignore the humanity of persons with disabilities.

International Human Rights and Mental Disability Law: When the Silenced are Heard draws attention to these issues in order to shed light on deplorable conditions that governments continue to ignore, and to invigorate the debate on a social policy issue that remains a low priority for most of the world’s nations. Examining the mistreatment of persons with mental disabilities around the world, Michael Perlin identifies universal factors that contaminate mental disability law, including lack of comprehensive legislation and of independent counsel; inadequate care; poor or nonexistent community programming; and inhumane forensic systems. Using examples from Western and Eastern Europe, South America, Africa and Asia, Perlin examines and summarizes the growing field of international mental health law, arguing that governmental inaction demeans human dignity, denies personal autonomy, and disregards the most authoritative and comprehensive prescription of human rights obligations. As Perlin argues, these issues pertain to all citizens of the world who value human rights and who care about how we treat those of us who may be most vulnerable. International Human Rights and Mental Disability Law is an indispensable resource for scholars, policymakers, governmental officials, and mental health professionals who care about the treatment of those with disabilities, and to human rights advocates and activists worldwide.

Chapter Outline

Ch. 1: Introduction and Overview

Ch. 2: International Human Rights Law in Perspective: legal Issues and Social Constructs

Ch. 3: Mental Disability Law in a Comparative Law Context

Ch. 4: The Use of Mental Disability Law to Suppress Political Dissent

Ch. 5: The Universal Factors

Ch. 6: The Application of International Human Rights Law to Mental Disability Law: Specific Contexts

Ch. 7: The UN Convention: The Impact of the New UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on International Mental Disability Law

Ch. 8: The UN Convention: The Role of Counsel

Ch. 9: A Disability Rights Tribunal for Asia and the Pacific

Ch. 10: Therapeutic Jurisprudence

Ch. 11: Conclusion

Author Information

Michael L. Perlin is a professor of law at New York Law School, where he is also Director of the International Mental Disability Law Reform Project and Director of the Online Mental Disability Law Program. He has taught and done advocacy work on six continents and is the author of 20 books and over 200 articles on all aspects of mental disability law. He spent eight years as director of the New Jersey Division of Mental Health Advocacy, where he provided legal services to individuals in cases involving civil commitment, institutional rights, and community care issues.

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