The mission of the European Committee for the prevention of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (CPT) is to visit all places where people are detained and deprived of their liberty by a public authority, in States which are signatories to the Convention. Within this context, the CPT has visited many closed psychiatric establishments. We have studied reports, which were made public concerning 78 psychiatric establishments visited by the CPT between 1990 and 2001. No act considered to be torture was reported by the CPT, but several cases of deliberate ill-treatment of patients are described. Many serious cases of dysfunction concerning staff, treatment, the use of seclusion and restraint as well as lack of adequate safeguards, were also noted by the CPT. The recommendations, comments and requests for information issued by the CPT are intended to promote the reform of these establishments in order to promote human rights, in the States visited. These recommendations as well as the CPT’s annual reports, serve as reference standards for psychiatric practice, which respect human rights.