Citizens Commission on Human Rights
CITIZENS COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
Raising Awareness of Human Rights Within The Field of Mental Health
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INFORMATION > PSYCHIARTY'S HISTORY IN SOUTH AFRICA

APARTHEID: CHILD OF PSYCHIATRIC EUGENICS

In 1976, CCHR exposed psychiatric "slave labour" camps in South Africa where thousands of blacks were imprisoned in former mining camps. The inmates were forced to labour for private companies and were treated so atrociously that media, decades later, dubbed it "mental genocide."

Psychiatric Apartheid Slave Labour CampCCHR referred its evidence to the United Nations, which led to the camps being investigated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 1977. WHO's 1983 report concluded that, "in no other medical field in South Africa, is the contempt of the person cultivated by racism more concisely portrayed than in psychiatry."

However, psychiatric and psychological groups were not mere passengers under apartheid; they designed, build and navigated the apartheid ship. South Africa's Prime Minister, Hendrick Verwoerd, a psychologist, had studied in German universities in the 1920s when these institutions were energetically forwarding race betterment theories.

When apartheid ended in 1994, CCHR presented submissions to the government on the atrocities committed against blacks in psychiatric institutions. A Health Ministry inquiry into malpractice and racism in psychiatric hospitals found gross patient abuse, falsified death certificates and general mistreatment of patients. Innocent children, "whose only offence is merely being ill are made to bear conditions from which we protect even the worst criminals in society,"the report stated.

In 1997, CCHR presented oral and written testimony to the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission about apartheid crimes committed by both psychiatrists and psychologists. The Psychological Society of South Africa finally admitted that psychological studies had aimed at discrediting blacks as intellectually inferior and, in 1998, called for legislation to scrap all racist psychological tests.

"It is a joy to work with CCHR and it is my fervent hope that we succeed in keeping the flame of freedom burning brightly for our children and our children's children so that some day we have a real future, without psychiatry," said Dr. Patience Koloko, national president of the Traditional Healers Association of South Africa, who attended the conference.
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