Russia: NGOs strategize on legal capacity law reform

5 March 2010 Moscow (Russia) and Budapest (Hungary). Yesterday the Mental Disability Advocacy Center (MDAC) and the NGO "Independent Psychiatric Association of Russia" hosted a round table event in Moscow, Russia. The purpose was to strengthen civil society's understanding of the right to legal capacity, and to strategize on how to engage the authorities in law reform.

The twenty-five participants included people with mental health disabilities, NGO representatives, lawyers, psychiatrists, human rights activists and representatives of the ombudsman's office. The participants discussed key issues related to legal capacity - or guardianship - law reform including whether and how to abolish plenary (total) guardianship, the elements of partial guardianship, alternatives to guardianship, and the need for compliance between domestic laws and international human rights law. There was a mix of views, with some participants wanting to retain plenary guardianship, which strips the adult of all decision-making authority. MDAC advanced the position that plenary guardianship is never justified and that there can always be more proportionate and human rights-compliant alternatives. The participants also discussed strategies of engaging with policy-makers and legislators.

The roundtable participants discussed the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in Shtukaturov v. Russia (2008), the Russian Constitutional Court judgment in the same case in 2009, as well as the United Nations Human Rights Committee concluding observations in October 2009 - all initiatives which were spearheaded by MDAC and which add pressure to the Russian authorities to carry out legal capacity law reform. The Russian Federation has signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Article 12 of which guarantees the right of persons with disabilities to legal capacity. MDAC encourages the Russian Government to ratify this treaty to demonstrate to the Russian people as well as the international community that Russia is committed to take the necessary measures to ensure the rights of persons with disabilities, including those with intellectual disabilities and mental health disabilities.

The round table was organized in the framework of the project "Innovating mental disability rights law and advocacy in Russia" through grants to MDAC by the UK Government's Strategic Programme Fund and the Civil Rights Defenders, a Swedish NGO.

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