UN Human Rights Committee should uphold disability rights standards

Today MDAC asked the UN Human Rights Committee to promote, rather than ignore, UN disability rights standards.

The Mental Disability Advocacy Center (MDAC) today sent a public letter to the Chair of the United Nations Human Rights Committee (the Committee), the treaty body which examines countries’ compliance with the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Last month the HRC examined the Czech Republic’s compliance with the ICCPR, and MDAC sent reports and its representative met with Committee members in Geneva so as to help the Committee with its work. Unfortunately, instead of mainstreaming standards set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the Committee’s concluding observations on the Czech Republic read as if the CRPD did not exist.

MDAC’s letter thanked the Committee for highlighting in its concluding observations issues such as the right to inclusive education, the right to legal capacity, the right to vote, physical and chemical restraints and seclusion, and deprivation of liberty in psychiatric hospitals. However, in all of these topics, the Committee’s recommendations contradicted CRPD standards. In its letter MDAC asks the Committee to refrain in the future from creating a situation where a government – such as the Czech Republic – can play one UN body against another, and in doing so fail to implement international human rights law.

The right to vote serves as an example. The CRPD sets out that people with disabilities are entitled to exercise their right to vote on an equal basis with others. The CPRD allows no exceptions whatsoever. Czech law prohibits people with disabilities who are placed under guardianship from voting, a situation which MDAC pointed out in its shadow report to the Committee clearly violates the CRPD. The Committee’s concluding observations recommend that the Czech government, “ensure that it does not discriminate against persons with mental, intellectual or psychosocial disabilities by denying them the right to vote on bases that are disproportionate or that have no reasonable and objective relationship to their ability to vote.”

MDAC considers this a wishy-washy, willful watering-down of CRPD standards. Its letter to the Committee explained the dangers inherent in the Committee’s recommendation: “No criterion that plays a part in removing the right to vote would be ‘reasonable’. Its application would constitute disability-based discrimination as it would only be applied to people who have already been assessed to have a disability,” the letter stated.

MDAC calls on the Human Rights Committee to live up to expectations as the vanguard of global civil and political rights. To do this it should engage with CRPD law and the jurisprudence from its sister treaty body, the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Only by doing this will the Committee be in a position to claim to offer a comprehensive, global approach to human rights for all.


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