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Russell Tribunal on Human Rights in Psychiatry
The Mind Challenges Genes (Geist Gegen Gene)

June 30 to July 2, 2001 in the Urania-Haus, An der Urania 17 in Berlin

Audio documentary of the whole event

Photo gallery:
Opening event
- Russell Tribunal - Geist Gegen Gene

Message from UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson

Verdict of the 5th international Russell Tribunal on Human Rights in Psychiatry

Freedom of Thought is an International Conference on human rights, biologistic discrimination and psychiatric coercion. The UNO High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, will be sending a delegate who will open the conference with a welcome address. This event will be an important contribution to preparations for the World Conference Against Racism.After the Opening Event on June 29, the Conference divides into two parts: The Fifth International Russell Tribunal on Human Rights in Psychiatry and the symposium The Mind Challenges Genes. A press conference on July 2 will conclude the Conference.

The UN Declaration of Human Rights ensures the fundamental right to freedom of thought for all human beings (Article 18). The Fifth International Russell Tribunal on Human Rights in Psychiatry reconsiders the psychiatric concept of mental illness, involuntary detention, and coercive treatment in psychiatric institutions in terms of violations of human rights. In Berlin 2001, the Tribunal will focus on the history of psychiatry, mental health laws and stigmatization. It is planned to move on to New York and Jerusalem in the following years.

The Mind Challenges Genes is meant to be a forum to go beyond the conventional production of biotechnological knowledge and the ideology of "improving the human being". With the commercialization of the bio-sciences, the danger increases that the value of human life is measured by the "quality" of genes: a high valuation of the "good" genes goes hand in hand with the devaluation of the "ill" genes. Racism without race is being furthered on the basis of genetic profiles. The criteria remain in the dark and only reflect the latest biological and medical developments.

PRESS RELEASE of Prof. Narr 15/6/2001

The administration of the Free University Berlin denies the use of its halls to the Russell Tribunal on Human Rights in Psychiatry and the parallel congress "Freedom of Thought".

Truth, justice, liberty: these three honourable and lofty goals, expressed in classical Latin, have recently been added to the emblem of the Free University (F.U.) by being embossed in letterheads and identity cards of that institution. (The undersigned has happily belonged, despite all the trouble, irritation and above all, the new restrictions and political limitations, to this institution for 30 years.) Honesty, equality, freedom- granted, of course, that nobody can quite fulfil this high claim, still, it is definitely something towards which the presiding committee of the F.U. can strive.

Instead, like plants seeking roots in the air, those ideals seek in vain to find support at the premises of the University. The halls that had been confirmed for use at the end of June for the Congress "Freedom of Thought" with its two programs confronting the terrible state of affairs in psychiatry and in gene-manipulation, have been suddenly withdrawn, even though I, a University professor, had reserved them punctually in December. I had requested their use out of fundamentally scientific, humane and democratic considerations. The rooms of Ihnestrasse 22, which today belong to the F.U., once belonged to the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Society (K.W.G.), and were used by the national-socialists Mengele, Verschuer and others as laboratories for human testing, as centers for research on human beings, for murderous practices in the name of
s c i e n c e . Even the Max Planck Institute, the successor of this particular institution, admitted its historical atrocities much too late. What a chance it would have been for the F.U. to come to terms with its past, since it is especially indebted to the above-mentioned "Three-Star-Values" and would do well to support this congress, if not actively, then at least in a passive way, in an effort to put right the shameful practices of the past. Thus the science of biological and human genetics fraught with dehumanizing associations from the past and dangerous new applications in the present, can be examined through the congress in just this context.

One hopes in vain! Hopeless simply because the administration does not want to fulfil another motto spoken in Latin: pacta sunt servanda : contracts are to be upheld. The administration of the F.U. has used pretexts and excuses that are formally not quite correct, in order to withdraw approval for the congress to use its rooms. This move was backed by an administritive court that did not look closely at the proceedings and set an injunction in the first instance; but it is a hollow victory. Materially, the presiding committee has opposed a sensible and thorough re-working of its scientific past, and also has violated efforts to set sensible and thorough criteria for the measuring of scientific standards in the present; further, it has injured me personally in regard to the article 5 Abs.3 GG (grundgesetz, the german constitution), which guarantees freedom in research and teaching. This law applies not only to lectures at the university, but to every kind of teaching, as long as the German Constitution is not harmed. The Constitution is not harmed at all by me, nor by the Russell Tribunal and the event Freedom of Thought. Constitutional norms, conditions and requirements for the insurance of human rights, last but not least the rights to freedom of speech and opinion, and especially freedom of research and teaching, have been harmed by the presiding committee of the Free University.

In order that this event not be endangered, and in order that the invited guests who will act as members of the jury, witnesses and conveyers of public opinion not be inconvenienced, "Freedom of Thought" will be held in Berlin in the Urania-Haus. The event will begin there on Saturday, June 30th, in the middle of the triad of values: veritas justitia libertas, without the representation of the F.U. Berlin, whose presiding committee has thrown itself outside of these values.

Freedom of Thought?

UN Declaration of Human Rights Article 18

Press reports

Film program