Validity Foundation - Mental Disability Advocacy Centre

The European Committee of Social Rights publishes a new decision against Czechia concerning the use of cage beds

By Csenge Schőnviszky 18th April 2024


The European Committee of Social Rights, in a decision of 14 February 2024, has delivered a verdict addressing severe human rights violations in Czechia. This decision follows a meticulous examination prompted by a complaint filed in 2019 by the Validity Foundation in partnership with the Forum for Human Rights, highlighting the egregious use of cage beds in mental health facilities across the country.

Years of meticulous data gathering, initiated during monitoring visits to psychiatric institutions between 2013 and 2014, uncovered a harrowing reality: persons with disabilities and older persons, predominantly women, were subjected to degrading conditions in the form of netted cage beds. These beds, devoid of any therapeutic purpose, were utilised as punitive measures, inflicting profound psychological and physical harm on those confined within. The violations encompassed a spectrum of abuses, including isolation, fear, helplessness, degradation, and even deprivation of basic human necessities such as food, water, and restroom access.

The European Committee of Social Rights unequivocally condemned the use of cage beds and any form of mechanical or chemical restraint in mental health facilities. Such practices, the Committee asserted, constitute grave violations of human rights, tantamount to torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. Furthermore, the Committee underscored that the use of cage beds flagrantly contravenes the State’s obligations to protect the fundamental rights of persons with disabilities and older persons, including autonomy, privacy, and personal dignity.

The Committee did not ultimately find a violation of the European Charter of Social Rights as it took note of the subsequent domestic legislation outlawing cage beds in Czechia. Validity and Forum for Human Rights welcome this ban, which is the result of many years of advocacy and exposure of human rights abuses by the two organisations.

Maros Matiasko, cofounder and human rights lawyer at Forum for Human Rights in Czechia, emphasised:

The Committee’s decision is extremely important because of the clear position on cage and net beds. Without discussion, it is a violation of the right to health and, for that reason, a measure that should have no place in the mental health care system. Even though the Czech Republic had abolished the use of net beds before this decision was taken, it is clear that, on the one hand, it is not possible to return to this practice and, on the other, it is an important decision for countries that still use cage and net beds, such as Slovakia. It is definitely necessary for Slovakia, which is bound by the Revised Social Charter, also thanks to this decision, to abolish the use of cage and net beds. Certainly, this step must be linked to the reform of psychiatric care and the provision of accessible community care.”

On behalf of Validity, Simona Florescu, Validity’s Interim Litigation Director said,:

“We welcome the Committee’s clear stance that cage beds are an affront to human dignity. Sadly, however, Validity has noted that cage beds continue to be seen as acceptable forms of restraint and punishment for persons with disabilities in some countries. We will intensify our efforts for the achievement of a universal ban on cage beds, and this decision will certainly be a useful legal tool in these efforts.”