International Human Rights Law in Perspective: Legal Issues and Social Constructs

Michael L. Perlin

in International Human Rights and Mental Disability Law

Published in print August 2011 | ISBN: 9780195393231
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199914548 | DOI:

Series: American Psychology-Law Society Series

International Human Rights Law in Perspective: Legal Issues and Social Constructs

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This chapter offers a short overview of international human rights law that relates generally to mental disability law. It begins with a short background of early UN documents and conventions, discusses more specialized civil rights documents, and explores some of the conceptual dichotomies. It sets the stage for the consideration of the mental disability law–specific questions that follow; the CRPD must be seen in the context of prior UN conventions, covenants, and declarations, and the application of rights to persons with disabilities must be seen in the context of the application of rights to other often-disenfranchised minorities. As ratified, the CRPD calls for “respect for inherent dignity.” The final subsection of this chapter further discusses this. This chapter also explores two concepts central to the understanding of mental disability law: “sanism” and “pretextuality.” “Sanism” is an irrational prejudice of the same quality and character of other irrational prejudices that cause (and are reflected in) prevailing social attitudes of racism, sexism, homophobia, and ethnic bigotry. It permeates all aspects of mental disability law and affects all participants in the mental disability law system: litigants, fact finders, counsel, and expert and lay witnesses. “Pretextuality” defines the ways in which courts accept (either implicitly or explicitly) testimonial dishonesty and engage similarly in dishonest (and frequently meretricious) decision making. All of the topics discussed in subsequent chapters are tainted by the pervasive corruption of sanism, and each reflects the blinding pretextuality that contaminates legal practice in this area.

Keywords: international human rights law; sanism; mental disability law; United Nations; soft law; hard law; derogable rights; civil and political rights; economic; social; and cultural rights; UDHR; pretextuality; heuristics; ordinary common sense; dignity; Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; institutionalization

Chapter.  9437 words. 

Subjects: Criminal and Forensic Psychology

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