Romania: Strengthening NPM capacity to monitor psychiatric institutions

Thursday, June 6, 2019

The Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT) conducted a training workshop for the Romanian National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) on the monitoring of psychiatric institutions. 

The four-day workshop was held in Bucharest from 13-16 May for all representatives of the Romanian NPM, including from regional offices, and some of their partner non-governmental organisations (NGOs). The training aimed to strengthen the capacity of the NPM to monitor psychiatric instutions and to explore the overall NPM strategies to improve the treatment and conditions of persons held in these settings. 

The training built on a first detention monitoring workshop held by the APT with the Romanian NPM in 2017. It allowed the NPM staff to strengthen the methodology and skills required to monitor psychiatric institutions, including the conduct of safe and effective interviews with persons with psychosocial disabilities. The workshop also focused on key areas to observe when monitoring psychiatric institutions, in particular involuntary placement and treatment in those institutions and the high risks related to the practice of seculsion and restraints. These issues were then monitored in practice during a visit to a psychiatric institution. 

The workshop also included a visit to a psychiatric institution to conduct a monitoring exercise.

In addition to APT's experience and advice, participants benefitted from the expertise of Nika Kvaratskhelia, head of the Georgian NPM and member of the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture, who shared - as a peer - his knowledge and skills based on his extensive experience of monitoring psychiatric institutions in Georgia. 

Following the workshop, the APT participated in a roundtable held by the NPM with representatives of Romanian state authorities responsible for mental health issues, and specialised institutions on the rights of persons with disabilities, including the monitoring mechanism designated under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). This meeting was an opportunity to exchange on the situation of persons held in psychiatric institutions, and how to better protect their rights. It allowed participants to enter into a dialogue on the implementation of the related NPM recommendations, and laid the ground for future exchanges and cooperation on these issues between the NPM and these key stakeholders.

The workshop aimed to strengthen the NPM's capacity to effectively monitor psychiatric institutions.

“We were pleased to foster an active discussion amongst the NPM team and some of their partners on the challenges faced on their daily monitoring and how to overcome them. Advancing the NPM’s internal reflection on its monitoring of psychiatric institutions is key to enhancing its practice, for the benefit of persons deprived of their liberty in these settings”, said Eva Csergö, Europe and Central Asia Programme Officer. “The roundtable between the NPM and the relevant authorities and State institutions was an important step, which illustrates the importance of a regular face-to-face dialogue for the effective follow-up to NPM recommendations.”

“Due to the serious risks and abuses faced by persons held in psychiatric institutions in Romania, independent and effective oversight of those facilities is essential. In this context, it is of paramount importance to continue strengthening the NPM and develop its cooperation with other state institutions- including the Council created to monitor the implementation of the CRPD - and non-governmental organisations specialised on the rights of persons with disabilities,” concluded Isabelle Heyer, APT Research and Advocacy Adviser.

Group picture of the attendees at the four-day workshop.