The Accusation will be led by
Prof. Thomas Szasz, USA, and Prof. George Alexander, USA.
A summary of the Accusation of the Russell Tribunal
on Human Rights in Psychiatry
in the Urania-Haus, An der Urania 17, 10787 Berlin - June/July, 2001
1. Mental illness is a legal-psychiatric fiction. If the term refers to brain diseases, then the patients' legal status and medical care ought to conform to the status and care of other patients with diseases of the central nervous system; and the specialists caring for them ought to be (be called) "neurologists."
2. Psychiatric practices rest on the twin pillars of civil commitment and the insanity defense. Neither intervention serves the best interests of the patient. Both interventions serve the interests of the patient's adversaries and/or of the family or society.
3. The fiction of mental illness inexorably generates its corollary, the fiction of psychiatric treatment. Combined with coercion (civil commitment), the concept of psychiatric treatment thus becomes a ready weapon, in the hands of the family or the state, for controlling, punishing, and destroying individuals unwanted by those in control of the psychiatric vocabulary, especially those in political authority. But for the fiction of treatment of illness, such conduct would be recognized as torture.
4. Article 18 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights guarantees the right to freedom of thought to everyone. This guarantee is not restricted to thoughts deemed by the state to be sane and not contingent on the person's having to prove he is not suffering from "mental illness." Psychiatry's basic principles and practices constitute a massive, ongoing violation of this Article of the UN Declaration of Human Rights.
5. The role of psychiatrists as medical judges and executioners in Nazi Germany, and their role as medical judges, jailers, and torturers in the Soviet Union, Communist China, and so-called democratic countries illustrate the inexorable consequences of currently accepted psychiatric principles and practices.
Psychiatry claims that there is a scientific basis for treating conduct, deemed abnormal by psychiatrists, as a medical illness; and to "diagnose" and "treat" persons so identified without their consent and against their express wishes. Accordingly, we charge psychiatry as a profession, and psychiatrists as persons and physicians, with the following outrages against humanity:
a) makes the psychiatric profession the final arbiter of normalcy, converting societal normative judgments into pseudo-medical ones that psychiatrists are uniquely qualified to impose;
b) creates the status condition called "mental illness" that can be ascribed for malevolent, negligent, or paternalistic reasons; moreover, since there are no physical markers to examine, the so-called "diagnosis" cannot be disproved by those accused; psychiatry thus creates a status of human subservience to those legitimized with identifying who is mentally ill;
c) dehumanizes and delegimizes individuals characterized as "mentally ill," by attributing to them non-responsibility for their illegal or immoral acts;
d) distorts the concept of individual responsibility, depriving some persons accused of crimes even of the protections of the criminal process, substituting for it an inquisitorial examination of their "mental health," aimed at defining them as mentally ill;
e) supports the psychiatric incarceration of those found mentally irresponsible for crime, a disposition often harsher and longer than punishment for the acts the defendants are accused of having committed;
f) encourages preventive detention by casting a wide net of future dangerousness in the guise of mental health diagnosis, under the pretext that it is an effective method for preventing some persons from doing harm;
g) stigmatizes those identified as mentally ill, providing opportunity to those who would discredit their political views, deny them employment, or mistreat them in other ways;
h) forcibly imposes interventions, euphemized as "treatments," on those identified as mentally ill, despite their refusal to be treated, and encourages drugging persons not incarcerated in so called "out patient" status, to re-inforce the psychiatric view that their (mis)behavior is an illness and to make them more docile;
i) supports, through the diagnosis of mental illness, the legal mechanism of imposed guardianship, thus expropriating the property of some persons so diagnosed. As a direct result of these premises, psychiatrists initiated the extermination of "undesirables" in Germany in the 1930s. Psychiatric principles and practices helped the Soviet Union, and now help the Chinese Communist government, hide, as medical treatment, a system of incarcerating, torturing, and discrediting dissidents. The same psychiatric principles and practices have encouraged, and continue to encourage the deprivation of human rights in the United States and many other countries.
For these atrocities, past and ongoing, we demand that psychiatrists acknowledge their collective and individual responsibility and take immediate steps to end the profession's support of and participation in them.
24/2/2001 Thomas Szasz and George Alexander