The Third Session of the Conference of State Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is currently underway at the United Nations Head Quarters in New York. The third session began today and concludes Friday. The theme of this session is “Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities through the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities”. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was adopted by the General Assembly by resolution in December 2006 and the Convention was opened for signature in 2007. Article 40 of the Convention requires that “[t]he States Parties shall meet regularly in a Conference of States Parties in order to consider any matter with regard to the implementation of the present Convention.”
Importantly this session will begin with the election of members of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. There will also be substantive roundtable discussions and an interactive informal session with civil society groups. As more than 80 State Parties have ratified the Convention the membership of the Committee will increase from 12 members to 18. There will also be elections for the 6 members whose terms expire this year. These sessions are important in driving the legal and policy reforms that are necessary for the realisation of the rights contained in the CRPD. The UN Under Secretary General of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs Sha Zukang – noted that a number of State Parties have moved beyond ratification to taking measures to realise the Convention. However, less than half of State Parties have adopted the Optional Protocol see here.
A number of blogs on Human Rights in Ireland have considered different aspects of the Convention. Ireland is one of the 146 signatories, 90 State Parties have actually ratified of the Convention. Ireland was one of the first countries to sign the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities when the Convention was opened for signature. Ireland has not ratified the Convention and is has not signed the Optional Protocol. Ireland holds to the common law tradition of not ratifying treaties until it considers that Irish domestic law is in general conformity with the treaty. There is an ongoing process to identifying incompatibilities between Irish domestic law and the Convention and to rectify those incompatibilities by way of law reform before ratification. There is a significant amount of law reform required before we can ratify the Convention. There is a clear need to introduce capacity legislation to address the glaring incompatibilities between for Irish law and Article 12 of the Convention. There is recognition that the current law governing the area the Lunacy Regulation (Ireland) Act 1871 is wholly inappropriate and in need of urgent reform.
Like other common law countries Ireland operates a dualist system, which means that international agreements that Ireland are party to are not automatically incorporated into domestic law. Therefore, when Ireland ratifies the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities it will not automatically become part of Irish law unless the Government decide to incorporate the Convention. Irish Governments have not incorporated ratified UN treaties into domestic Irish law. (For an analysis of the incorporation of the ECHR into Irish law see Fiona De Londras and Cliona Kelly’s Book European Convention on Human Rights Act: Operation, Impact and Analysis).
The Irish Human Rights Commission has been very critical of the non-incorporation position stating that it “… does not stand up to legal analysis on a number of levels”. The Commission has also pointed out a number of possible options by which international human rights treaties can be more effectively incorporated into Irish domestic law. The Human Rights Commission in its Strategic Plan 2007-2011 has committed itself to arguing for the domestic incorporation of human rights treaties and conventions that are not currently reflected in Irish law and administrative practice.