Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers deeply concerned over delay in execution of forced medication judgment
Mar 14, 2023
The Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers held its quarterly meeting to oversee the execution of judgments from the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) from 7 to 9 March. In its decision regarding case X. v. Finland, the Committee of Ministers expressed its deep concern that patients more than a decade after the judgment still do not possess adequate legal safeguards in cases concerning forcible administration of medication. The Committee of Ministers called upon the authorities to urgently take all available measures to prevent further delays in the adoption of the necessary legislative measures.
The judgment given in 2012 concerns, among other things, the forced medication of a patient in a psychiatric hospital and the lack of effective legal remedies. In the case, the ECtHR found that there was a lack of effective legal remedies, as the medication given against the patient's will was based on the doctor's treatment decision, which cannot be appealed or its appropriateness investigated.
The execution of X. v. Finland requires completely new national legislation that defines the patient's possibilities to appeal the prescription of forced medication. Execution has already taken more than 10 years, which is why the Committee of Ministers placed the judgment under enhanced supervision in December 2021. Two new similar complaints are also currently pending at the European Court: E.S. v. Finland and H.H. v. Finland. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health announced in early autumn 2022 that the government proposal on “clarification of the regulation of legal remedies for involuntary medication” will not be passed during this governmental period, because the feedback received during the consultation round requires further preparation.
The Committee of Ministers increases political pressure on Finland
The Committee of Ministers has considered X. v. Finland in December 2021 and again now in March 2023. In addition, the Department for the Execution of Judgments of the ECtHR visited Finland at the invitation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in January 2023. The Execution Department, among other things, prepares notes and decision proposals for the Committee of Ministers.
The Committee of Ministers decided to resume examination of X. v. Finland at their meeting in March 2024 and, should no tangible progress be reported by 21 December 2023, instructed the Secretariat (Execution Department) to prepare a draft interim resolution for consideration at that meeting. This would be a blow to Finland's reputation as a country that is cooperative and respects human rights.
The Human Rights Centre has actively monitored and reported
The Human Rights Centre has issued statements regarding X. v. Finland on 21.10.2021 and again on 27.1.2023. Rule 9 of the Committee of Ministers rules for the supervision of the execution of judgments gives National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) the opportunity to submit statements to the Committee of Ministers regarding the monitoring of the execution of ECtHR judgments.
In its latest statement from January (attached below), the Human Rights Centre criticized that the execution of X. v. Finland has been delayed again, as the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health announced that the government proposal will not be presented during this governmental period. The Human Rights Centre also underlined in its opinion that an appealable written decision should be made regarding regularly administered involuntary drug treatment. In order to secure the patient's legal protection, the condition for obtaining a written decision should be the lack of expressed consent rather than opposition of treatment.
The Human Rights Centre met with the Council of Europe Execution Department during their visit to Finland. In addition, the Human Rights Centre asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for information regarding the delays in the execution of ECtHR judgments and decisions of the European Committee for Social Rights.
The unreasonable delays in execution of X. v. Finland, other judgments by the ECtHR, and decisions and recommendations by other monitoring bodies are not consistent with Finland's human rights obligations, human rights policies or Finland's strong support for the Council of Europe. The Human Rights Centre continues to actively monitor and promote the execution of judgment X. v. Finland.