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OPCAT implementation in health care settings in the Netherlands

Implementing the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention Against Torture: protecting human dignity and integrity in healthcare

This project, that is funded by the Open Society Foundation (OSF), focuses on the treatment and possible abuse of vulnerable persons in healthcare settings.

Background and description of the project

This project, that is funded by the Open Society Foundation (OSF), focuses on the treatment and possible abuse of vulnerable persons in healthcare settings. Background and description of the project The Optional Protocol to the UN Convention Against Torture (OPCAT, 2006) requires that States Parties establish one or more independent national preventive mechanisms (NPMs) that will conduct visits to places were persons are deprived of their liberty. NPMs must be in a position to visit both traditional and less traditional places of detention. As a result such visits may also concern (private) hospitals, psychiatric and other health care institutions, and facilities in which persons are deprived of their liberty. NPMs may as such also visit a wide range of healthcare institutions and pay attention of the issue of ‘torture in healthcare settings’. The Netherlands, which ratified the OPCAT on 28 September 2010, has designated six existing national inspectorate bodies, including a body on youth care and a body on healthcare. These bodies are coordinated by the Inspectorate for Justice and Security. Given the recent designation of these bodies, no information has been made available publicly on the functioning of these bodies in light of their duties under OPCAT. It is therefore necessary to research whether the designated bodies in the Netherlands meet the expectations imposed upon them by the OPCAT. In our project we aim to list the challenges and analyze actual and potential weaknesses in the Dutch health system when it comes to the prevention of torture and other types of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment in healthcare settings. Against this background we will scrutinize the functioning of the NPMs in the Netherlands and suggest improvements to overcome the weaknesses and gaps in the functioning of the Dutch NPMs with respect to their work in non-traditional places of detention related to healthcare. After finalizing our analysis of the Netherlands, we aim to compare this situation with that of surrounding countries (the United Kingdom, Germany, Denmark and Spain).

Research team

Project managers are Dr Antenor Hallo de Wolf and Dr Brigit Toebes, who both work as a Lecturers at the Department of International Law of the university of Groningen. While Antenor has obtained considerable experience with the functioning of NPMs during his stay at the University of Bristol, Brigit’s research activities address the interfaces between human rights and health law. For questions you can email us at a.g.hallo.de.wolf@rug.nl and b.c.a.toebes@rug.nl .

Researcher in the project is Veelke Derckx, LLM, email v.l.derckx@rug.nl.

Advisory Board

  • Professor Rachel Murray, Human Rights Implementation Centre, University of Bristol
  • Adriaan van Es, MD, experienced Human Rights advocate and trainer, co-author Istanbul Protocol, coordinator of the International Foundation of Health and Human Rights Organizations (IFFHRO)
Last modified:09 October 2014 10.59 a.m.