Validity Foundation - Mental Disability Advocacy Centre

Czechia: Validity and Forum for Human Rights call for abolition of “netted cage beds”

By Steven Allen 20th December 2019


In December, Validity and Forum for Human Rights filed an international complaint against the use of netted cage beds in psychiatric hospitals in the Czech Republic. The case, which was filed at the European Committee of Social Rights, tackles the ongoing use of this practice which conflicts with international human rights law.

Read the full complaint here (PDF).

Residents restrained in netted cage beds are unable to move or have any privacy, often for very long periods of time. “You become an animal in there,” one of the residents told Validity during our 2013 monitoring in these institutions. He explained that they were not allowed to go to the toilet while strapped in a cage bed instead was given a bottle to use. Reportedly, cage beds are used frequently used against the most vulnerable residents, women and the elderly. Netted cage beds are the most recent variant of the old metal-barred cage beds and are just as dangerous and de-humanising.

The Czech Republic continues to use this barbaric form of restraint in psychiatric institutions, despite universal condemnation from the United Nations, Council of Europe, human rights organisations and people with psychosocial disabilities. As far back as 2002, the Council of Europe Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) called on the Government to immediately withdraw netted cage beds from service. The recommendation has been consistently repeated by other bodies, such as the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT), which in explicitly asked the Czech Government to amend the Health Care Act in 2012 “to include the prohibition of the use of net-beds since their effects are similar to those of cage-beds“. The same recommendation was voiced by the United Nations Human Rights Committee in 2013.

The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture has emphasised that locking people in “cage” or “net beds” has no therapeutic justification and may amount to torture or ill-treatment, even if used only for a short period of time. The ban on all coercive and non-consensual measures causing ill-treatment is absolute and immediate.

It has been repeatedly pointed out by almost all international human rights bodies that the practice of the use of netted cage beds can amount to inhuman treatment or even torture. As such, it must be immediately banned by law. Nevertheless, further structural changes in Czech psychiatry must also be implemented to prevent the use of any other forms of restraint as a substitute,” argues Maroš Matiaško, chair of FORUM.

Validity and its Czech partners have been pushing the Czech Government to change the practice for almost two decades. The atrocious impacts of cage beds were first described in detail in a report issued by Validity in 2003. In 2006, the Czech Republic abolished cage beds in social care institutions. Nevertheless, in psychiatric institutions they remain in place to this date, only being modified to its netted form. Validity returned to Czech psychiatric institutions in 2013, and uncovered ongoing coercive practices in psychiatric facilities, including the continuing placement of people in cages.

Cage beds are one of the numerous barbaric forms of torture inflicted on people detained in psychiatric hospitals, along with tying, straitjackets, seclusion and non-consensual drugging. These abuses happen on a daily basis in Czech Republic and across Europe. Institutionalisation, torture and non-consensual treatment must be exposed for the harm they cause and recognised as human rights violations. Banning cage beds would be an important step towards a more humane approach to supporting people with psychosocial disabilities.” added Ann Campbell, Co-Executive Director of Validity.

Yet, a new Government Action Plan on the Reform of Psychiatric Care 2020-2030 in the country fails to abolish netted cage beds. Validity calls on the Czech Government to immediately dismantle all netted cage beds across the country and provide redress and rehabilitation to all those who have had their human rights violated.