Tools to monitor & enforce Absolute Prohibition: Shadow reports

Italicized terms will be defined in Glossary below.

Participating in CRPD Reporting Process

Is your country is one of the 174 (as of July 25, 2017) States Parties to the CRPD?  If so, you can use the CRPD reporting process to support your national advocacy to implement Absolute Prohibition of substitute decision-making, involuntary commitment and involuntary treatment.

The reporting process can be complicated to navigate.  It will require energy, attention and, in general, funding to attend the the CRPD Committee‘s sessions in Geneva, Switzerland.  You will need to make decisions about your basic approach to shadow reporting, whether and how to collaborate with other DPOs and NGOs/CSOs in your country, and how to interact with the government and other significant actors at the national level.

The process is similar for other UN treaty bodies.  If your country is a State Party to other UN human rights treaties, you can find out the relevant information and participate in their reporting process.  Make sure to research the standards applied by other treaty bodies, whether they have upheld the Absolute Prohibition, and how you can present the issues to them most effectively.

Some preliminary considerations:

  • Know the CRPD standards.  Study the CRPD Committee’s interpretive documents in particular General Comment No. 1 and Guidelines on Article 14, and the updated Reporting Guidelines.  Be prepared, if government officials or others dispute the Absolute Prohibition, to back up your advocacy by referring to the Committee’s own materials, as well as your own reasoning.
  • Has your country made a reservation or declaration (found on the ratifications webpage)?  If a reservation or declaration impacts Absolute Prohibition, use the process to advocate its withdrawal.   A reservation can limit the government’s obligations under international law, unless it is contrary to the object and purpose of the Convention.  The CRPD Committee found (see paragraphs 7-8 of linked document) that a reservation to preserve substitute decision-making was contrary to the object and purpose of CRPD Article 1.  The same reasoning should apply to reservations that preserve involuntary commitment and involuntary treatment, which similarly ‘prevent the State Party from fully implementing and addressing all human rights of persons with disabilities in compliance with the human rights model of disability.’
  • Become familiar with the CRPD Committee’s Guidelines for Participation of DPOs and CSOs.

Where to start?

  • What are the laws and practices in your country that allow substitute decision-making, involuntary commitment and involuntary treatment?
  • Start with knowledge from experience: what are the different ways people can be held against their will in a hospital or institution, the different ways they can be forcibly medicated or electroshocked, or otherwise treated without their consent?  What are the practices of restraint and solitary confinement in mental health or related settings?
  • Research the laws that authorize these practices, with the help of lawyers if needed.  Your aim in researching the laws is to identify all the legal provisions that have to be repealed or nullified in order to implement Absolute Prohibition.  Make sure to keep this aim in mind.  We are not promoting improvement of these laws or better adherence to the legal criteria  – so long as legal authorization exists, we are all at risk of arbitrary detention and torture in mental health settings.
  • Consider related and intersectional issues.  What other kinds of discrimination put people with psychosocial disabilities at risk of harm from state officials?  Do police play a role in involuntary commitments?  Are there many deaths as a result of police encounters?  Are there many deaths in psychiatry; under what circumstances?  How do these harms break down; are there patterns of discrimination based on sex, race, poverty or other factors?  What needs to be done to both implement Absolute Prohibition, and enact policies to counter discrimination in related areas?

What kind of process to use?

  • Consider your capabilities.  Are you an independent advocate?  Do you have a small group to work with?  Are you the policy officer for a national user/survivor organization?
  • What have you done so far to advocate Absolute Prohibition?  Have you campaigned publicly?  Have you advocated specific reforms of law and policy?  Is your advocacy engaged with government processes, e.g. consultations on law reform?  Or, are you hoping to jump-start such advocacy through the CRPD reporting process?
  • What are your aims for shadow reporting?  E.g., to raise public awareness of human rights violations in mental health settings, build the capability of the user/survivor movement, cultivate allies, generate a body of UN recommendations directed to your government on Absolute Prohibition, mobilize consensus and political will for proposed law reform?
  • What is your relationship to a national coalition or other groups doing shadow reports on CRPD?  Can you integrate the concerns and perspectives of people with psychosocial disabilities throughout such a report?  Do you need to participate defensively, i.e. to ensure that others do not advocate against your interests?  Consider options of separate report, joint report, or both.
  • What level of consultation do you want to undertake?  What tools might you use for broad consultation with people with psychosocial disabilities in your country?  E.g. online, teleconferences, local meetings in cities and regions?  How will you frame the issues for consultation?
  • Do you want to focus on a few key issues, or submit a comprehensive report addressing the situation of people with psychosocial disabilities under all relevant provisions of the CRPD?  A comprehensive report may be useful internally but you should prepare to highlight key ‘asks’ and propose language for Concluding Observations and recommendations.

Timeline and key points for participation:

  • Check and see where your country is in the reporting process.  On the CRPD Sessions page, select your country in the drop-down menu, to find documentation.  If it appears only in Future Sessions, the country has submitted an initial report but the review has not yet been scheduled.   If no records are found, your country has not yet submitted a report.
  • You can start preparing a shadow report at any time after your country has ratified the Convention.
  • When your country is preparing its initial report or a follow-up report, they should hold consultations to hear from civil society.
  • After your country has prepared its report, you can update your shadow report with comments about material in the country’s report.
  • The CRPD Committee will schedule the country to receive a List of Issues based on the report.  In that session, the government does not appear but DPOs/NGOs can brief the Committee in a one-hour session shared by all DPOs/NGOs.  The deadline to send information for that session will be generally 6 weeks before the session begins.  You can submit your shadow report, and/or submit suggested questions for the Committee to include in its List of Issues.
  • Find out which Committee member is the Country Rapporteur and make sure to meet with them.  Also meet with any other members who take an interest in the issues you raise.
  • The Committee will schedule the Country Review or Constructive Dialogue in the following session.  There will be a deadline to submit your shadow report and/or any updated information six weeks prior to the beginning of the session.  This time, the government will send a delegation to participate in a public dialogue with the Committee, which takes place over one afternoon and the following morning.  After the government makes an initial presentation, Committee members will ask questions in three clusters.  Prior to the Constructive Dialogue, DPOs/NGOs will have an opportunity to brief the Committee in a one-hour session shared by all DPOs/NGOs.  You can also schedule meetings with individual Committee members who are interested in your issues.  Follow up with them to comment on the government’s statements, especially if you have contradictory information or views.
  • The government may schedule meetings with DPOs/NGOs while you are in Geneva, or afterwards.  Use this opportunity to continue your public advocacy for Absolute Prohibition, and find out who are the relevant officials to follow up on specific areas of responsibility, if you do not already know.


CRPD is Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

CRPD Committee is the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a group of 18 independent experts elected by States Parties for limited terms, tasked with interpreting and monitoring the Convention.

CSO is civil society organization, i.e. an organization in civil society, not connected with government.

DPO is Disabled People’s Organization, or disabled persons’ organization.  The CRPD Committee ‘understands disabled persons organizations to be those comprised by a majority of persons with disabilities – at least half of its membership -, governed, led and directed by persons with disabilities.’

NGO is non-governmental organization, sometimes considered to be a narrower category than CSO, such as a registered nonprofit organization.

Reporting process is the obligatory cycle of reports, reviews, and follow-up actions undertaken by States Parties to a human rights treaty.  CRPD Articles 34-39 set out these obligations for CRPD States Parties.  See also the Guidance Notes on the Constructive Dialogue.

Shadow reporting is one of the terms used for civil society organizations’ reports to a UN treaty body addressing the situation in a particular country.  Unlike States Parties, CSOs are not obligated to report, but treaty bodies find their information helpful.  Related terms are NGO reports, civil society reports, parallel reports, alternative reports.

States Parties are countries that have accepted the legally binding obligations of the Convention by depositing an instrument of ratification or accession with the UN.

UN treaty bodies are committees of independent experts, established according to the terms of human rights treaties, to monitor States Parties’ implementation of the treaty.  The CRPD Committee is a UN treaty body.