United Nations stands up for rights of people with intellectual disabilities

Today, we are proud. Legal capacity and the violations of the rights of people with intellectual disabilities topped the agenda of the Constructive Dialogue led by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) on 27-28 August in Geneva. Examining the measures taken by the European Union (EU) to ensure that the rights of people with disabilities are considered in all policies and relevant legislative proposals, the CRPD Committee questioned high-ranking European Union officials on the failure of European Institutions to ensure equal rights for all Europeans, regardless of their disability.

Rapporteur Damjan Tatic warned the European Union of the large numbers of Europeans with disabilities placed under guardianship and thus deprived of their rights. The European Union must take urgent measure to address this problem, he added. Other Committee members echoed his concerns. Hyung Shik Kim from the Republic of Korea underlined that persons with intellectual disabilities are not included in policy-making at EU level, and face significant barriers in accessibility and independent living. Diane Kingston asked the European Commission to describe the specific actions they are planning to take to ensure that European citizens under guardianship who are deprived of their right to vote in their home country can indeed participate in EU elections, while Theresia Degener wanted to know what steps the EU is taking to ensure that all people with disabilities under legal capacity can access their rights.

As supported decision-making would be a viable, and CRPD-compliant alternative to guardianship, Degener enquired whether the EU is planning to fund a comprehensive research on this topic, a point Stig Langvad emphasized as well.

Michel Servoz, who manages the Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, said that the EU has no direct competence to regulate the recognition and exercise of legal capacity. He referred to Inclusion Europe’s Choices website that gathers good practices on supported decision-making as an example how the Commission supports initiatives in the area of legal capacity. However, the delegation of the European Commission acknowledged that the deprivation of legal capacity negatively affects many other rights, including the enjoyment of citizenship rights. The European Commission will publish a new report, assessing the obstacles that citizens encounter when participating in political life, which Disabled Persons’ Organisations can contribute to.

In its position papers, but also in bilateral meetings with Committee members, Inclusion Europe emphasized the areas where the rights of persons with intellectual disabilities and their families are routinely violated, whether this refers to political participation, legal capacity, accessibility, independent living or education. We are delighted that the CRPD Committee has taken our points into account and asked particular questions revealing the main gaps in the implementation of the CRPD in the European Union. We can only hope these important issues will be reflected in the Concluding Observations, which will be published on 3 September. People with intellectual disabilities and their families surely deserve it.

For more information, please contact Silvana Enculescu, Inclusion Europe Communications Manager, at s.enculescu@inclusion-europe.org