Czechia: long-awaited ban on cage beds in psychiatric institutions enters into force
Czechia finally prohibited the use of netted cage beds in psychiatric hospitals from the beginning of this year, following a legislative amendment of the Czech Act on Healthcare Services. The ban comes after years-long efforts of Validity and its partners calling on the Government to end this practice. Various international bodies have repeatedly echoed our plea requiring a complete ban of netted cage-beds and calling their use torture and ill-treatment.
Czechia removed cage beds from social care homes in 2007, following our 2003 report criticising the practice. Nevertheless, cage beds continued to remain in use in psychiatric hospitals, with evidence that persons with intellectual disabilities were also moved from social care institutions to hospitals to have them restrained in this abusive way. In 2014, Validity (formerly MDAC) documented their extensive use in 8 psychiatric institutions in Czechia and continued to advocate for their complete ban. In 2019, together with Czech Forum for Human Rights, we filed a collective complaint to the European Committee of Social Rights calling on the Czech Government to quit the practice, which has no therapeutic justification and is inhuman.
In 2020, the Czech Government finally recognised the international consensus that the use of netted cage-beds “contravenes the absolute prohibition of ill-treatment”. In an explanatory report to the Act on Healthcare Services amendment, the Government warned that if the prohibition is not legislated, Czechia may continue to violate the European Convention on Human Rights, the United Nations Convention Against Torture, and possibly other binding international conventions. Maroš Matiaško, Senior Lawyer of Forum for Human Rights, said: “The long-awaited legislation ban on netted cage beds is an example of how the combination of international advocacy and litigation can pressure Governments to change harmful practices. While late, it brings hope that radical changes within Czech psychiatric care will eventually occur to ensure compliance with present-day human rights standards. On a systemic level, primarily the deinstitutionalisation must be accomplished within a reasonable timeframe that will bring, hopefully, end to the use of all harmful restraints.”
Validity welcomes this development and urges the Czech Government to ensure that the prohibition is immediately and strictly implemented and respected in all psychiatric hospitals. Šárka Dušková, Validity’s Legal Manager, said: “In a letter sent to the European Committee of Social Rights, we reminded the Government that it is paramount that independent monitors, including non-governmental organisations and organisations of persons with disabilities specifically, are allowed to enter the institutions and observe compliance with the ban.” The Czech Government should also ensure appropriate redress to the many victims of this inhuman practice over the years. At a minimum, the Government should apologise and make sure that the practice will not reappear. Victims must also be ensured access to rehabilitation and compensation. We also call on the Czech Government to reinforce efforts to deinstitutionalise psychiatric facilities in the country.