US Senate Fails to Ratify Disability Convention

Last week, the US Senate failed to reach the two-thirds majority required on a motion to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). You can view footage of the senate debate and vote here.

Lawrence O’Donnell pronounced this a ‘day of shame’ for the US Senate, and many commentators, especially those among the American disability rights community, have expressed their disappointment at the failure to ratify the treaty. Now that this attempt has failed, it is important to take stock of the approach to ratification pursued in the Senate and to consider possible alternatives, if another attempt to achieve US ratification is to be made.

Continue reading “US Senate Fails to Ratify Disability Convention”

US Senate Fails to Ratify Disability Convention

Neglected Citizens? The situation of people with an intellectual disability in residential care

Human Rights in Ireland welcomes this guest post from Jim Winters, Advocacy and Rights Officer, Inclusion Ireland as part of Human Rights Week 2012.

Founded in 1961 Inclusion Ireland is the national organisation advocating for the rights of people with an intellectual disability. Our focus is on the realisation of the core principles and values expressed in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Everyone has the right, including people with an intellectual disability, to a life free from the fear of violence or abuse. We know that people in care are vulnerable to abuse and neglect. Last year almost 10,000 incidents of violence, harassment, aggression or abuse against patients were recorded in Irish hospitals and community healthcare facilities.

One way to protect and promote the rights of people with an intellectual disability in care is to provide for the regulation of residential services.  Regulations describe the essential standards of quality and safety that people in disability services should expect. Services are monitored on their compliance with the regulations.

Inclusion Ireland has been advocating for the introduction of statutory standards and mandatory inspections of residential services for over seventeen years. However, successive governments have failed to take action. Numerous enquires and investigations have highlighted the lack of protection afforded to adults and children with disability in state-funded care. They have not been acted on.

In 2007, the McCoy Report, which investigated past child abuse within the Holy Family School and Brothers of Charity Services in Galway, called for the introduction of standards and inspections of as matter of urgency. In 2009 the Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse recommended the introduction of statutory standards and inspections of residential services for children with disabilities.

In 2010 the Irish Human Rights Commission undertook an enquiry into the situation of Continue reading “Neglected Citizens? The situation of people with an intellectual disability in residential care”

Neglected Citizens? The situation of people with an intellectual disability in residential care

Historic Hearing in US Senate on UN Disability Treaty

We are delighted to welcome this guest post from Professor Gerard Quinn Director of the Centre for Disability Law & Policy at NUI Galway.

A historic hearing took place yesterday (Thursday, July 11th) in the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.  The issue before the Committee was US ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).  In the US system the Senate must gives its ‘advice and consent’ before the Federal Government can ratify a treaty.  A two thirds majority vote is needed from the full Senate before the Administration can proceed to ratification.  This is an exceedingly high bar but, especially after yesterday, it looks likely to be met.  It is now almost a foregone conclusion that the Committee – chaired by Senator John Kerry (D-Mass) – will commend a positive vote to the full Senate.

This really matters not just for the US but also for the rest of the world.  And it would certainly up the ante for Irish ratification.  The traditional bi-partisan approach of the US Congress was splendidly exemplified in opening remarks made to the Committee by Senators John McCain (R-Ariz) and Tom Harkin (D-Iowa).  The symbolism of their joint appearance spoke volumes about the natural reflex of both parties in favour of the civil rights of persons with disabilities.  Indeed, both of them relayed the support of former President H W Bush as well as former Senator Bob Dole.  This immediately took the issue out of the cauldron of partisan politics and placed it where it should be – as matter of high principle. Continue reading “Historic Hearing in US Senate on UN Disability Treaty”

Historic Hearing in US Senate on UN Disability Treaty

Council of Europe Recommendation on the Political Participation of Persons with Disabilities

The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe last week adopted a Recommendation that seeks to increase the participation of persons with disabilities in political and public life at all levels − local, regional, national and international.  The Recommendation is available here.  Between 80 – 100 million persons with disabilities live in the 47 Member States of the Council of Europe.  The Council of Europe noted that persons with disabilities often do not take part in the decision-making process as they face legal, physical, and societal barriers to participating. Through this Recommendation the Committee of Ministers seek to challenge this exclusion. The Recommendation aims to remove barriers and create conditions for active citizenship, without discrimination, for all and in all life settings. The Recommendation stresses that all persons with disabilities are entitled to express their views and should not be deprived of their right to vote or stand for election on the basis of disability.  This is a very progressive statement from the Committee of Ministers and goes some way towards countering the repressive position of the European Commission for Democracy Through Law (the Venice Commission) regarding the eligibility of persons with intellectual disability to stand for election and vote.   The Venice Commission in its“Interpretative Declaration to the Code of Good Practice In Electoral Matters on the Participation of People with Disabilities in Elections” stated:

Continue reading “Council of Europe Recommendation on the Political Participation of Persons with Disabilities”

Council of Europe Recommendation on the Political Participation of Persons with Disabilities

Getting it Right: Capacity Legislation and the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities

Amnesty International and the Centre for Disability Law & Policy (NUI Galway) will run a seminar entitled “Getting it Right: Capacity Legislation and the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities” on 30 November 2011 from 9am – 1pm at the Alexander Hotel, Fenian Street, Dublin 2.  This seminar will explore how Irish legislation can reflect the changes Article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).  Article 12 of the CRPD requires a fundamental change in thinking about legal capacity and repeal of laws that restricts or denies legal capacity.  Person sharing their personal experiences of having their legal capacity called into question will address the conference.  The seminar will also be addressed by leading international legal experts Christine Gordon (speaking about the British Columbia model) and Oliver Lewis (MDAC). This seminar is timely as the Government moves towards the publication of a bill to replace the outdated Ward of Court System.  For more information see here.

Getting it Right: Capacity Legislation and the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities

World Mental Health Day

Today in World Mental Health Day – and it provides us in Ireland with a lot to think about in terms of the way in which mental health services are provided and how our mental health laws are constituted.  The key policy document on mental health is entitled “A Vision for Change” and the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy, which was established to monitor its implementation have been very critical to date in their five annual reports on the lack of progress in implementation.  See here.  In its most recent report it was critical of the absence of a recovery ethos within mental health services.  This is a major challenge that has to be addressed as principles of recovery are at the core of the philosophy underpinning “A Vision for Change”.  While there is much to be dismayed about we are at an important crossroads in Ireland in relation to our mental health laws.  The Department of Health is in the process of reviewing of the Mental Health Act 2001, while the Department of Justice is similarily reviewing the Criminal Law (Insanity) Act 2006.  This provides a significant opportunity to rethink our mental health laws in light of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which the Government is working towards Continue reading “World Mental Health Day”

World Mental Health Day

Has the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities re-written Article 33.2?

“Since publishing this blog posting it has transpired that shortly before Spain’s examination the Spanish Ombudsman, which is an ‘A’ accredited National Human Rights Institution, was incorporated into Spain’s independent framework alongside CERMI, hence explaining the UNCRPD Committee’s concluding observation the Spain is in ‘full compliance’ with Article 33.2 the Convention.   Contrary to the posting, this suggests that the UNCRPD Committee does prefer the inclusion of Paris Principles compliant NHRI’s in the framework and is unlikely to entertain States choosing to exclude them where they exist.”

We are delighted  to welcome this guest post by Neil Crowther a leading disability rights and equality advocate. Neil an independent consultant and writes in a personal capacity. He was previously Director of Human Rights at Britain’s Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) where he led the development and implementation of its domestic and international human rights programme.  Prior to his role as Director of the EHRC Neil led the Commission’s disability rights programme.

In September, Spain followed Tunisia in becoming only the second State to have been examined by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The tone of the examination and the concluding observations made by the Committee will therefore be of considerable interest and are likely to be a reference point for future examinations and domestic implementation.

The concluding observations certainly make interesting reading and a number are likely to prove controversial, such as on the matter of late terminations of foetuses identified as having a disability.  I will focus here on the rather more prosaic, yet highly significant concluding observation regarding Spain’s compliance with Article 33.2.

In the section titled ‘positive aspects’ the Committee states emphatically that it:

“commends the State party for establishing independent monitoring mechanisms in full compliance with art. 33.2 of the Convention.” (my emphasis)

The reason this is so intriguing is that Spain has designated the Committee of Representatives of Persons with Disabilities (CERMI) – an NGO – to perform the monitoring function.

Article 33.2 requires that:

‘States Parties shall, in accordance with their legal and administrative systems, maintain, strengthen, designate or establish within the State Party, a framework, including one or more independent mechanisms, as appropriate, to promote, protect and monitor implementation of the present Convention. When designating or establishing such a mechanism, States Parties shall take into account the principles relating to the status and functioning of national institutions for protection and promotion of human rights.’

That such a framework can include disabled people’s organisations is without doubt, and this posting should not be read as an attack on CERMI which is an excellent organisation Continue reading “Has the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities re-written Article 33.2?”

Has the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities re-written Article 33.2?

UN Launch of Dr. Eilionóir Flynn’s Book From Rhetoric to Action

Human Rights in Ireland regular contributor Dr. Eilionóir Flynn’s book entitled “From Rhetoric to Action: Implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities” was launched yesterday at the United Nations.    The book (published by Cambridge University Press) is a global comparative study of implementation and monitoring mechanisms for national disability strategies.  It comprises a comparative study that was conducted at international, regional, and comparative country levels and highlights critical success factors in implementing disability strategies or action plans worldwide.  The book is amongst a growing body of literature on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006).  It explores emerging synergies between what is required to implement principles of international law contained in the Convention and what is possible to achieve through national policy and systems development.  The Centre for Disability Law and Policy, NUI Galway ran a one-day international conference on the theme of the book last December.  A video of the proceedings of that conference is available here.

Eilionóir book identifies a number of critical success factors for implementing and monitoring strategies – these include leadership from government and civil society, participation of disabled people in implementation and monitoring, transparency and accountability in reporting on progress, independent monitoring and external review, and the ability to measure progress with indicators of disability equality.  This book is very timely as many countries have ratified the Convention or in the process of doing so and this book contributes to the core comparative knowledge to drive that process.  It is essential reading for anyone interested in disability law and policy.  It will be particularly useful to activists, policy makers, researchers, academics, NGOs and practitioners.

The Table of Contents is as follows:

  1. Comparative international trends in disability law and policy;
  2. Regional perspectives on disability strategies and action plans;
  3. Comparative country evaluation: a snapshot of approaches to national disability strategies;
  4. Success factors in delivering a national disability strategy – lessons from international and comparative experience;
  5. Identifying the golden threads in Irish disability law and policy;
  6. Achieving Ireland’s national disability strategy – a case study in implementation and monitoring at domestic level;
  7. Showcasing domestic progress and achieving international standards;
  8. Structural ingredients for furthering national disability strategies;
  9. Measuring progress in achieving aims of national disability strategies – key success factors.
UN Launch of Dr. Eilionóir Flynn’s Book From Rhetoric to Action

My Daughter is Leaving Home: Reflections on Living Independently

We are delighted to welcome this guest post from Noelin Fox.  Noelin is a Ph.D candidate in the Centre for Disability Law and Policy, NUI Galway.  Her research examines the right to independent living provided for in Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of with Disabilities.  Noelin has worked for many years in intellectual disability services’ in Ireland.

This month, my daughter, like thousands of her peers across the country, is moving away from home for the first time.  She is 18 years old and is taking up her place in college, embarking on her journey to independence.  Over the coming months she will have to learn a whole array of new skills which she has no previous experience of.  She will have to manage her (limited) budget, feed herself properly, learn to live with people who are not her immediate family, manage the academic work she is assigned, deal with the bank, figure out bus time-tables, forge new friendships and a whole array of other tasks.  In the process she may well make mistakes.  She may submit work late for college, spend too much money on going out leaving herself short at the end of the week, get involved in unwise relationships, among many things.  Hopefully she will learn from such mistakes and manage better the next time.  Throughout this process she will have plenty of support – from us her parents, from the school-friends she is living with and from new friends – and if she gets her heart broken or bruised we will take care of her until she heals and help to her move on.  The college too is well attuned to the needs of in-coming first years – it has good structures in place to ease them into college life and help ensure they progress through their first encounters with third level academic studies.

How different all this would all be if she had a disability, especially if she had an intellectual disability.  Would she be leaving home at all at this stage of her life at all?  Probably not – Continue reading “My Daughter is Leaving Home: Reflections on Living Independently”

My Daughter is Leaving Home: Reflections on Living Independently

Moving Towards Modern Legislation on Legal Capacity in Ireland

The Centre for Disability Law and Policy recently prepared a submission to the Oireachtas Justice Committee on the Scheme of proposed legislation that will radically overhaul Irish law on legal capacity.  The full submission is available here.

The core message of the submission was that the fields of mental health law, non-discrimination, and legal capacity can no longer be considered separately.  In this regard the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities “recognises that considering these issues in separate silos was wrong and that the artificial lines drawn between these separate fields are increasingly blurred” and it is important to consider the impact the proposed legal capacity legislation on general non-discrimination provisions and mental health law in particular.  The submission highlighted that Article 12 of the CRPD on legal capacity is at the core of the Convention and that equal recognition as a person before the law is key to the enjoyment of all other rights.  The submission also flagged that the assumption of legal capacity, and the obligation on states to provide supports to people with disabilities in order to enable them to exercise their legal capacity flows from this recognition, and these are the key attributes, which need to be embedded in Irish law, in order to ensure compliance Continue reading “Moving Towards Modern Legislation on Legal Capacity in Ireland”

Moving Towards Modern Legislation on Legal Capacity in Ireland