WNUSP Co-chair, Moosa Salie responds to draft report: Reforming Mental Health Law in Africa: Practical Tips and Suggestions

8 July 2010

WNUSP Co-chair, Moosa Salie responds to draft report:
Reforming Mental Health Law in Africa:  Practical Tips and Suggestions, written by Peter Bartlett and Vanja Hamzic.

A few months ago WNUSP chair, Moosa Salie and also other leaders in the movement from Africa, as well as professionals and service providers from Africa and elsewhere were approached by Peter Bartlett and Vanja Hamzic to participate in telephonic interviews in order to contribute to a study on Reforming Mental Health Law in Africa.

The draft report was submitted to participants for comment recently and prompted the letter which was sent to Peter Bartlett.

The following description of the two researchers is given in the introduction to the draft report:
This report is written by Peter Bartlett and Vanja Hamzic.  Professor Bartlett is Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust Professor of Mental Health Law in the School of Law at the University of Nottingham.  He has served as consultant internationally on various projects concerning mental health law reform, most recently in Lesotho.  Mr Hamzic is a doctoral candidate in human rights law at Cambridge University.

Letter to Peter Bartlett by Moosa Salie, WNUSP co-chair

Dear Peter

Today is 8 July and although I had meant to respond to the draft report on Mental Health reform in Africa, I was unable to do so due to other commitments.

Although in the preamble to the report you make the disclaimer that the views represented in the report does not necessarily reflect the views of those interviewed, in hindsight I realise that I am uncomfortable with being associated with this report. As you should know, I am the co-chair of the WNUSP and it is very clear to me that the positions and interpretations in the report especially with regard to the CRPD are in conflict with our positions and interpretations of the CRPD.

I am not legally trained so I cannot argue our case adequately using legal, technical language.

So I will in my own words try to reflect our concerns.

The WNUSP believes that the CRPD is the paradigm changing international legal instrument, impacting on the lives and dignity for all persons with disabilities, especially so in our case for persons with psychosocial disabilities.

We believe that key legal experts like yourself, can do much to influence the approaches of governments worldwide to changing and adapting Mental Health legislation. Therefore the report's/your minimising of the impact of the far reaching and legally binding implications of the CRPD on state parties who have ratified it, creates the impression that the obligations to end forced/unconsensual/involuntary/coerced interventions are not binding on them. So we have a big difference of opinion/approach to the ethos of your report.

I do not question that your report is a good legal argument and explanation for approaching Mental Health legislation change, if the only standards which were needed to be taken into the equation were pre-CRPD standards.

So my request is that we engage with you further in this discourse in the hope of gaining consensus, or we part ways, so to speak in agreement that we disagree with each other's interpretations and points of view.

I hope that you take my comments in the spirit in which they were meant (that was to clearly and honestly express our opinion, not personalised in any way) and that we could find a way to engage further, as a movement representing the international voice of users and survivors of psychiatry and your department.

Please convey my best wishes to Vanja, and my prayers are that he finds blessings in the oncoming Muslim holy months.

Best regards

Moosa Salie

WNUSP, co-chair

Cape Town, South Africa