Down’s Syndrome and Sterilization

Many times, cases involving human rights involve decisions that are very difficult. These decisions are ones that judges usually hate to make, but they have to since they are the last resort for many people. This case is one of those hard ones.

Katlyn was a warm, affectionate young woman that was twenty-one years old. She was born with Down’s syndrome, though. Her parents were very loving and caring but, as Katlyn became older, her parents could not supervise her to the same extent they could in the past.

With less supervision, there was an increased chance that Katlyn would have sex. Her parents believed that if she became pregnant, it would be very bad for Katlyn. They originally had a contraceptive hormonal implant for her, but she had a very bad experience with it, so her parents sought the advice of a consultant about┬ásterilization. After the local authorities realized it was Katlyn’s parents asking about the sterilization and not Katlyn herself, they asked the Court to declare if sterilization was in her best interests or not. Katlyn herself was unable to decide legally if this was the best course for her to take since she did not understand the medical issues that surrounded sterilization and contraception.


The judge stated how difficult this case was to decide. On one hand, Katlyn’s life would be adversely affected if she were to become pregnant. On the other hand, sterilization would interfere with her physical integrity and be an invasive procedure with effects that are permanent.

After looking into the human rights laws and consulting professionals on what was best for Katlyn, the judge stated that his decision had to be made for her best interest and in a way that does not fully restrict her freedom of action and her rights. Taking into account the seriousness and significance that the sterilization procedure would be for Katlyn, the just made the decision that sterilizing her would be too invasive. Instead, her parents were told to take pregnancy prevention measures that were less restrictive.

This was a hard case to determine, but a potential win for the mentally handicapped people that wish to start a family.

Female Genital Mutilation

There was a case in 2005 about a horrific human rights abuse known as Female Genital Mutilation, or FGM. This ritual is usually performed crudely and is many times fatal. Other cases leave some serious physical and mental scars for the girls it is performed on. It is estimated that around 125 million women and girls around the world live with the effects of Female Genital Mutilation.

Our story takes up to Sierra Leone, a place where most of the girls living there are forced into FGM. A young girl by the name of Farrah overheard plans for her to be inflicted with Female Genital Mutilation as part of her initiation as a woman. After hearing this at the age of fifteen, Farrah fled Sierra Leone and sought refuge and safety in the United Kingdom.

Farrah was allowed by the Home Secretary to enter into the United Kingdom, but they rejected her claim for asylum. They claimed that she was not being persecuted because she was a member of a particular social group. The Refugee Convention of the UK makes this one of their criteria for asylum. But you may think that her being allowed into the United Kingdom was enough to keep her safe, right? Well, that isn’t so. Just because you are allowed to enter the UK doesn’t mean you can stay. You must be granted asylum to stay there long term.

The argument over Farrah went to the highest court in the UK, the House of Lords. The judges in this case stated that Farrah was at risk of persecution if she were sent back to Sierra Leone since Female Genital Mutilation was a form or torture. They also determined that since she was a young woman from Sierra Leone, Farrah was actually part of an at-risk social group and could officially seek asylum in the United Kingdom.

This case of Farrah and her dealings with FGM shows just how important a perspective in human rights is when it comes to making legal decisions. The judges in the court recognized how the women of Sierra Leone were facing the risk of female genital mutilation and were able to go beyond the more narrow thinking of the earlier court decision and come up with a solution that was able to protect someone that really needed it.


Mental Illness and the Court System

In 2008, Frank was diagnosed with psychotic symptoms and other mental illnesses. He reported to the police that a man named Hector bit off part of his ear then threatened to hurt him and his family

Hector was charged with causing bodily harm and intimidating a witness. On the day of his trial, the prosecutor was unable to offer evidence because he decided not to put Frank on the stand since he was seen as unreliable. Because of this, Hector was found not guilty. Frank filed a legal claim against the prosecutors after this, claiming that their decision was not legal since is went against his human rights and discriminated against him.

The court agreed that Hector should have been prosecuted and that not putting Frank on the stand before the jury was unreasonable. It was shown that the prosecutor had misunderstood Frank’s psychiatric report and had stereotyped Frank as not being credible because he had mental problems in the past. The state had also breached their obligation through the criminal justice system to protect Frank against assaults. The courts original failure to prosecute Hector had made Frank more vulnerable to be attacked again.

This case was a huge victory for those suffering with mental illnesses because the court recognized that if Frank and others like him were not allowed to give testimony, that they would be put in a position where they could be easily assaulted without any legal grounds. Without any independent evidence of the guilt of the perpetrator, and without the testimony of the victim, these cases would never be fairly resolved, but would only put the victim in more danger from the perpetrator in the future. Because of this, steps were taken to help come up with recommendations for the future in regards to these sort of cases. These recommendations included training for prosecutors and guidance for the courts in similar situations. Hopefully, with these measures in place, those with mental illnesses will also receive the justice they deserve and the protection from those that mean to do them harm.



A Right to Life Story

In 2004, two men were put in a cell together. One of the men was Chris and was there for fraud. He was window cleaning in Minneapolis and tried to double charge several customers for his own benefit. The other man was Richard, an unstable and violent man. He had a mental illness and had been in prison before for his behavior. While the men were together in the cell, Richard lost control of himself and ended up kicking and stomping Chris to his death. There was an alarm system in the cell, but it didn’t work well and failed to protect Chris from his attacker.

The court had a private inquiry into the death of Chris and concluded what would be expected, that the two men should have never been in the same cell together and the the alarm system that was there for protection should have been inspected and replaced before the cell was even used. Chris’s parents, however, were informed that there was no recourse available to them in civil law and that they would not be able to press for criminal charges because there was not enough evidence.

Instead, his parents took their case against the prison to a court for human rights. They claimed the prison did not protect their son’s right to life and should be held accountable. The court sided with the parents. When the prison failed to protect Chris from Richard, they took his right to life away from him.

They did an inquiry into the death of Chris and found the evidence to be inadequate. Since witnesses could not be compelled to testify, the people critical to the case did not give their testimony about what happened. Also, the court case was help in private. This fact was, for two reasons, an important one. First, the privacy and quickness of the inquiry meant that the rights of the parent’s to receive an effective remedy was not held in respect. Second, it showed that the right to life can also mean a full inquiry into your death if need be.


The Story of Madeline Price

Madeline Price suffered from many disabilities. Her limbs were not fully formed and, for mobility, she needed to use an electric wheelchair.

A debtor took her to court over past due payments. When she was asked about her finances, she refused to answer and was sent to prison for seven days.

On the day of the hearing, it was too late to send Madeline to prison, so she had to spend a night in one of the police station cells. These cells are not adapted to suit a handicapped person. The cell was cold and Madeline was not able to use the bed because of the pain it would cause. When at home, Madeline would sleep on her sofa sitting up. She was unable to reach the emergency alarm in the cell, so she had to sleep sitting in her wheelchair that entire night.


The following day, Madeline was moved to a larger prison. The medical staff there noticed that the wheelchair battery was almost depleted. Madeline told them she wasn’t allowed to bring her charger into the cell with her because it was considered a luxury item.

Madeline claimed that she suffered from degrading treatment while in prison. The medical staff had a lot of issues helping her get on and off of the toilet. In one instance, she had to stay on the toilet for 3 hours until she finally allowed an officer that was a male nurse help clean her. Madeline also claimed that a female nurse changed her clothes while two male officers were present. She had to use a catheter before leaving prison because she retained urine during her stay.

The court decided that the judge who sentenced Madeline should have taken steps to ensure the facilities she was sent to were adequate for her disabilities. Also, the prison authorities and police were unable to accommodate her basic needs. The treatment she received was degrading and humiliating. She was awarded a small amount of compensation from the court for her troubles.