Universal suffrage for all

PRESS RELEASE: Brussels, 9 March 2011

MDAC asks the Council of Europe to revise the “Interpretative Declaration to the Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters on the Participation of People with Disabilities in Elections”

The Mental Disability Advocacy Center (MDAC), in Hungary, has sent a letter to the Venice Commission, the Council of Europe’s advisory body on constitutional matters. The purpose of this initiative is to lodge a formal request to the Venice Commission in order to bring its policy on the voting rights of people with disabilities into line with existing international law.

In October 2010 the Venice Commission issued its “Interpretative Declaration to the Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters on the Participation of People with Disabilities in Elections”. According to one of the provisions of this document “[n]o person with a disability can be excluded from the right to vote or to stand for election on the basis of her/his physical and/or mental disability unless the deprivation of the right to vote and to be elected is imposed by an individual decision of a court of law because of proven mental disability.” In the opinion of MDAC, the fragment in bold undermines the current European and international human rights law. Therefore, the organisation asks the Venice Commission for a revision of the text.
A three-page legal opinion accompanying the letter reinforces this approach. According to the document, 27 out of 47 Europe Member States have ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The Convention has also been ratified by the European Union. Article 29 of the Convention sets out political participation rights, including the right to vote and stand for election, for all adults with disabilities without exception. The document also states some examples in which CRPD standards on the right to vote and stand for election have been supported by Council of Europe law, policies and statements.

MDAC Executive Director, Oliver Lewis, has expressed his opinion on this issue. He considers that the role of The Venice Commission “is undermined by a clear misreading of international human rights law” and exhorts the Commission to “clarify its position as a matter of urgency.”

Inclusion Europe supports MDAC’s initiative, as the fight to protect the right to vote of people with disabilities is currently one of our main goals. In October 2009, Inclusion Europe embarked on project ADAP, which aims to improve accessibility to elections for people with disabilities. The final conference of this project will take place on 30-31 May 2011.

About the organisations:

Inclusion Europe (IE) is the European voice and representation of over 60 member organizations of people with intellectual disabilities and their families. Founded in 1988, Inclusion Europe has an almost 20-year track record of successful operation and defending the rights of its constituency. http://www.inclusion-europe.org/
The Mental Disability Advocacy Center (MDAC) advances the human rights of children and adults with actual or perceived intellectual or psycho-social (mental health) disabilities. Focusing on Europe and central Asia, MDAC uses a combination of law and advocacy to promote equality and social integration. http://www.mdac.info/

For more information, please contact:

Inclusion Europe AISBL
The European Association of Societies of Persons with
Intellectual Disabilities and their Families

Galeries de la Toison d’Or
29 Chaussée d’Ixelles #393/32
B-1050 Brussels – Belgium

Tel. : +32-2-502 28 15
Fax : +32-2-502 80 10