European Committee for the Prevention of Torture
and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Involuntary placement in psychiatric establishments
Extract from the 8th General Report of the CPT,
published in 1998
The CPT is called upon to examine the treatment of all categories of persons deprived of
their liberty by a public authority, including persons with mental health problems. Consequently,
the Committee is a frequent visitor to psychiatric establishments of various types.
Establishments visited include mental hospitals accommodating, in addition to voluntary
patients, persons who have been hospitalised on an involuntary basis pursuant to civil proceedings
in order to receive psychiatric treatment. The CPT also visits facilities (special hospitals, distinct
units in civil hospitals, etc) for persons whose admission to a psychiatric establishment has been
ordered in the context of criminal proceedings. Psychiatric facilities for prisoners who develop a
mental illness in the course of their imprisonment, whether located within the prison system or in
civil psychiatric institutions, also receive close attention from the CPT.
When examining the issue of health-care services in prisons in its 3rd General Report (cf.
CPT/Inf (93) 12, paragraphs 30 to 77), the CPT identified a number of general criteria which have
guided its work (access to a doctor; equivalence of care; patient's consent and confidentiality;
preventive health care; professional independence and professional competence). Those criteria also
apply to involuntary placement in psychiatric establishments.
In the following paragraphs, some of the specific issues pursued by the CPT in relation to
persons who are placed involuntarily in psychiatric establishments are described1. The CPT hopes
in this way to give a clear advance indication to national authorities of its views concerning the
treatment of such persons; the Committee would welcome comments on this section of its General
Prevention of ill-treatment
In view of its mandate, the CPT's first priority when visiting a psychiatric establishment
must be to ascertain whether there are any indications of the deliberate ill-treatment of patients.
Such indications are seldom found. More generally, the CPT wishes to place on record the
dedication to patient care observed among the overwhelming majority of staff in most psychiatric
establishments visited by its delegations. This situation is on occasion all the more commendable in
the light of the low staffing levels and paucity of resources at the staff's disposal.
As regards psychiatric care for prisoners, reference should also be made to paragraphs 41 to 44 of the
Committee's 3rd General Report.