European Human Rights Commissioner issues report on independent living

13 March 2012, Strasbourg (France) and Budapest (Hungary). Today, Thomas Hammarberg, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, released a comment and an issue paper on the right to live in the community of people with disabilities.

MDAC welcomes the initiative of Europe’s human rights chief to focus on the right to live in the community. Millions of people live segregated from society in institutions in Europe, and many are confined to their own homes, especially as austerity measures are cutting disability and mental health services. In his comment, Hammarberg noted the European Court of Human Rights case of Stanev v. Bulgaria, in which MDAC was involved. He emphasised that the Court did not just focus on the narrow issue of liberty/detention, but on the essence of segregation, “the distance and isolation from the community Mr Stanev experienced, the institution’s regimented daily schedule, the rules on leave of absence, the lack of choice in everyday matters, and the lack of opportunity to develop meaningful relationships.” 

The issue paper contains an analysis of the requirements of Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which sets out the right of each person to live in the community, with choices on an equal basis with others. The issue paper tracks developments in European and international law on the right, and contains a set of guiding questions for civil society and national human rights structures to track progress.

The paper was jointly developed by a range of organisations, including MDAC and many NGOs with whom we work, including the Resource Centre for People with Mental Disability (ZELDA), Latvia; European Disability Forum; European Network on Independent Living; European Network of Self-Advocates; European Network of (Ex)Users and Survivors of Psychiatry; Inclusion International; Centre for Disability Law and Policy, National University of Ireland, Galway; and the Disability Rights Initiative of the Open Society Foundations. 

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