develop mental disability

Mental Disability Rights International

Mental Disability Rights International (MDRI), is a Washington, DC based human rights advocacy organization that documents conditions, publishes reports, and promotes international oversight of the rights of mentally disabled people. Jointly established in 1993 by the Washington College of Law Center for Human Rights and the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, founded by Eric Rosenthal, MDRI has had coverage of their work by the following newspapers: New York Times, Washington Post, CNN International, BBC World Service, ABC News, Voice of America, NPR, NBC,Univision, Independent (London), Ha'Aretz and others.

Since its founding, MDRI has published reports on conditions facing mentally disabled people in Uruguay (1995), Hungary (1997), Russia (1999), Mexico (2000), Kosovo (2002), Romania (2005), Turkey (2005) and Argentina (2007). In November 2007, MDRI released a controversial report on conditions in psychiatric institutions in Serbia. MDRI's report, which showed pictures of emaciated children and adults tied to beds, called many of the abuses "tantamount to torture." On an NBC News report before the report released, a Serbian official admitted that problems existed. . Following the release of the report, however, Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica described the allegations raised as "malicious." Five days after the report released, members of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture arrived to assess the problem of abuse in mental institutions in Serbia. Serbian government representatives promised to improve conditions in Serbian institutions. .

As a result of MDRI's work;

  • An abusive psychiatric facility in Mexico was closed.
  • Russia adopted MDRI's recommendation to integrate disabled children into the community.
  • A human rights ombudsman system was formed in Hungary to protect the rights of institutionalized persons.
  • Psychiatric survivors in Hungary formed a nationally recognized "disability council" to ensure the participation of people with mental disabilities in the formulation of new public policies.
  • Activists brought human rights claims before international oversight agencies, including the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and the UN Human Rights Committee
  • Amnesty International issued an Urgent Action in 2001 regarding a state institution in Bulgaria where disabled women were kept in cages.

Award Received

In September 2007 The Thomas J. Dodd Research Center at the University of Connecticut awarded MDRI the 2007 Dodd Prize for advancing the cause of international justice and global human rights. MDRI is sharing the $75,000 prize with The Center for Justice and Accountability.


  • MDRI Website
  • AAPD International News
  • WCL website


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