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February 2, 2020

Training on legal, human rights of persons with mental disorders held

Islamabad

February 2, 2020

Rawalpindi : Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) conducted training session on ‘Protecting Human and Legal Rights of Mentally Disordered Persons’ here at Holy Family Hospital with an aim to bridge the gap between psychiatry and law.

The two-day training programme is being hosted by JPP in collaboration with Pakistan Psychiatric Society, Institute of Psychiatry and Rawalpindi Medical University.

“The aim of this training is to bridge the gap between psychiatry and law,” said Dr Khurram Hussain, a Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist at The State Hospital Carstairs, Scotland. “These fields have their own languages and sometimes they struggle to interact with each other,” he added during his interactive training session.

“In a criminal justice system where the odds are so heavily stacked against the marginalised, we need to ensure that the rights of people with mental disorders are inviolable,” said founder and Executive Director of Justice Project Pakistan Sarah Belal.

She added people with mental disorders are one of the most vulnerable individuals of our society and require adequate safeguards to protect them. The training was aimed at providing lawyers, mental health professionals, students and activists information and insight about mental illness and intellectual disability, and how persons with either or both are identified or overlooked in the civil and criminal justice system.

Vice Chancellor of Rawalpindi Medical University Professor Muhammad Umar, President of Pakistan Psychiatry Society Professor Dr Iqbal Afridi, and veteran psychiatrist Professor Malik

Hussain Mubbashar spoke before the training, while Professor of Forensic Psychiatry at the University of Edinburgh Lindsay Thomson will join Dr Khurram Khan for an interactive discussion over Skype on the second day of the training.

Even though people with mental illnesses are among the most vulnerable group of individuals in Pakistan, their vulnerability is seldom recognized or afforded the appropriate level of protection in the criminal justice system.

The organisers of the training briefed the participants that according to the latest report by the prison reforms commission constituted by the Islamabad High Court, there are 594 prisoners with mental disorders in various jails across Pakistan. These prisoners are often labelled as ‘inherently dangerous’ and are consequently subjected to cruel and unusual punishment, including capital punishment which is strictly prohibited under international law.

Alarmingly, around 50 million people suffer from some sort of mental illness in Pakistan and the lack of mental health treatment and training in the criminal justice system generally means that many individuals never even get diagnosed. Research also shows that one in seven prisoners has a serious mental health condition. Unfortunately, most destitute prisoners come into contact with mental health professionals for the first time in prison.

The training will conclude on Sunday (today). It is important that Justice Project Pakistan is a non-profit organisation based in Lahore that represents the most vulnerable Pakistani prisoners facing the harshest punishments, at home and abroad. The JPP investigates, litigates, educates, and advocates on their behalf.