Cablegate: Got: New Law On the Mentally Disabled Will Address

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

061411Z Oct 05





E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (U) Summary: An international NGO issued a report
September 28 asserting that Turkey's treatment of the
mentally disabled is "tantamount to torture." The report
alleges that Turkish psychiatric institutions employ
practices such as shock therapy and physical restraint in
ways that violate international conventions. A GOT official
told us the report is accurate, but that the fix is on the
way; he said a comprehensive law adopted earlier this year
will address the problems. End Summary.

NGO: Treatment "Tantamount to Torture"

2. (U) The Washington, D.C.-based NGO Mental Disability
Rights International (MDRI) released a report harshly
critical of Turkey for its treatment of people with mental
disabilities. The report claims that state psychiatric
institutions subject patients to treatment that is
"tantamount to torture" and violates Turkey's obligations
under international conventions. MDRI asserts that Turkey
lacks community-based support for mental patients and offers
no alternative to state institutions where the mentally
disabled are held separately from society in "prison-like

3. (U) The 81-page report, based on a two-year investigation,
includes the following points:

-- Arbitrary Detention: Turkey lacks an appropriate law
establishing an independent judicial review for committing
patients to psychiatric hospitals. Therefore, all
psychiatric patients in Turkish facilities are being held
arbitrarily and in violation of international law.

-- Improper Use of Shock Treatment: Staff at psychiatric
institutions employ painful electroconvulsive shock treatment
in ways that violate the European Convention for the
Prevention of Torture and World Health Organization (WHO)
standards. Staff members apply shock therapy excessively,
without using anesthesia or muscle relaxant, and also use
shock therapy as punishment. Shock therapy is used on
children as young as nine, though the WHO has stated that the
treatment should be banned for children.

-- Malnutrition and Dehydration: MDRI observed children
"dying from starvation and dehydration" in psychiatric

-- Lack of Rehabilitation: There is a broad lack of
rehabilitation and physical therapy in Turkish institutions,
and many patients face deteriorating physical and mental
conditions as a result.

-- Physical Restraints: MDRI observed excessive use of
physical restraints, including children tied to cribs and
beds for extended periods.

GOT Official: New Law Will Address Problems

4. (SBU) We discussed the report on October 4 with Mehmet
Aysoy, acting president of the GOT's Presidency
Administration for Disabled People. Aysoy flatly
acknowledged that the report is accurate. However, he said
MDRI representatives failed to meet with the GOT during their
time in Turkey. If they had done so, he said, they would
have learned that while they were conducting research in
Turkey, the GOT was working to address the problems raised in
the report.

5. (U) Turkey's comprehensive new Law on the Disabled went
into effect July 1 of this year. Aysoy said the implementing
regulations for the law have not yet been adopted, but he
expects that to happen by the end of November. The law will
convert Turkey's treatment system for the mentally disabled
from an "archaic" model based on large state institutions, to
a U.S.-style system focused on providing direct support to
families to enable them to care for mentally disabled
relatives at home, he said.

6. (U) Under the law, only the more severely mentally
handicapped, whose conditions cannot be treated at home, will
be placed in institutions. The number of institutions will
be doubled, from 700 to 1,400, so that today's large
institutions will be replaced by 20-patient facilities. The
law will also establish regulations, consistent with EU
standards, governing the commitment of patients to
psychiatric facilities and the use of treatments such as
shock therapy.

7. (U) Aysoy estimated it will take two years to fully
implement the new law.

Comment: An Impressive Response

8. (SBU) We were impressed by the way Aysoy, a doctor of
sociology and specialist on the handicapped, responded to the
report. Before we even contacted him, he sent a letter to
the Embassy outlining the new law. GOT bureaucrats usually
bristle at international criticism, which they tend to
attribute to political motives. But Aysoy, who drafted the
new law, calmly accepted the substance of the report, while
convincingly arguing that he is doing something about the
problem. Still, his two-year timeline for implementing the
new law appears optimistic. We will monitor progress, which
may serve as a gauge for the GOT's ability to undertake the
vast number of regulatory reforms required by the EU
accession process.


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