Category Archives: UNCRPD

European Court of Human Rights Issues a Landmark Judgment for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) this week delivered a landmark judgment for the rights of persons with psycho-social disabilities and intellectual disabilities in the case of Stanev v Bulgaria.  The Mental Disability Advocacy Center (MDAC) and the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee represented Mr. Stanev in his efforts to bring domestic proceedings and at the ECtHR.  The London-based NGO Interights intervened as a third party in the case.

The Court found a violation of Article 5 (1) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), finding that the applicant was “detained” in a social care institution, the first time that the Court has made such a finding. As Mr. Stanev was legally unable to challenge or seek compensation for his detention, Articles 5(4) and 5(5) of the ECHR had been violated. The Court also held unanimously that Mr. Stanev had been subjected to degrading treatment in violation of Article 3 of the ECHR by being forced to live for more than seven years in unsanitary and unlivable conditions and that domestic law did not provide him any remedy for such violations. This is the first case in which the Court has found a violation of Article 3 in a social care setting.

The other major issue raised in the case was how the law prohibited Mr. Stanev from challenging restrictions on his legal capacity. Having been placed under partial guardianship, under Bulgarian law he needed his guardian’s consent to initiate such a proceeding, and because of this the Court unanimously found that Mr. Stanev’s right to a fair trial under Article 6 of the ECHR had been violated. In this regard, the Court referred to the growing emphasis that international law places on the legal autonomy of persons with disabilities, stating that it “is also obliged to note the growing importance which international instruments for the protection of people with mental disorders are now attaching to granting them as much legal autonomy as possible”, and goes on to reference the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (Judgment, para. 244).
Lycette Nelson, MDAC Litigation Director stated:

“Following this judgment, States throughout Europe must end policies and practices that unnecessarily restrict the liberty of thousands of persons with psycho-social disabilities and intellectual disabilities in the provision of social care.  The Grand Chamber judgment is unanimous that consent to such placement is necessary to avoid violating the ECHR. States must develop alternatives to ensure the right to live in the community for all.”

Oliver Lewis MDAC Executive Director responded to the judgment by stating:

“Bulgaria must revise its laws restricting legal capacity to bring them into line with international law and the Court’s judgment, so that people can be supported to make their own decisions, rather than having their right to make decisions stripped from them”.

The judgment is available here, and the Court’s press release of the judgment ishere.

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Filed under Bulgaria, European Court of Human Rights, right to indeoendent living, rights of persons with disabilities, social care homes, Stanev, UNCRPD

Texting Ban in the Congo: The Deaf Community

BBC news reported a story last month on the banning of texting/sms messaging in the Democratic Republic of Congo see here. The decision to ban texting was made by the government on the basis of preserving public order following unrest after the recent elections. The deaf community has raised their concerns about the ban, claiming that it is putting the lives of members of the deaf community at risk and increasing isolation of the deaf community. There are over 1.4 million people living in the DRC who have some form of hearing impairment. Text messaging is widely used by the deaf community for communication. It has been described as an easy way for deaf people to communicate with the rest of the world, see here. The simple act of texting enables deaf people to interact independently with fellow members of the deaf and hearing community with ease.
Not alone, has text messaging opened up easy communication methods for deaf people, it is also being used as a way to communicate in case of an emergency. Text messages are now considering an essential tool for communities to maintain security, as they could spread alerts cheaply, quickly and discreetly to a large number of people who may be in danger. For example in the UK some police services are offering text services for people who are deaf or have difficulty with speaking, see here.
From a development perspective, the use of mobile phone technology and sms messaging is a vital way to communicate with marginalized groups that do not have access to mainstream methods of communication or information services.
For example, radio announcements to stay indoor during times of conflict are usually not accessible to people who are deaf. Mananga Biala, the head of Kinshasa’s main educational centre for deaf people commented that a as a result of this texting ban, members of the deaf community had no alternative means of staying in touch as many did not have access to email or the internet. Additionally he commented that members of the deaf community lives were at risk due to not being able to hear gunfire or protesting. There are many good example of how to make emergency responses inclusive for persons with disabilities in times of conflict and also during natural disasters etc. CBM have produced some useful publications on this matter see links here.
Also it is worth remembering that the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) provides for the right to safety for persons with disabilities, particularly in times of conflict and emergencies. The Democratic Republic of Congo became a signatory to the CRPD in 2007. By signing the Convention, the DRC is considered to be making a commitment to upholding the rights of persons with disabilities. It is also committed not to take any retro regressive steps, which might undermine the sentiments of the CRPD.  Article 11 of the CRPD asks States to ensure that all “necessary measures to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in situations of risk, including situations of armed conflict, humanitarian emergencies and the occurrence of natural disasters”.
Article 11 can be broadly interpreted as asking States to take a range of measures to ensure the safety of persons with disabilities during times of conflict and natural disasters. These measures can be very broad, but at the very least, should ensure that methods of communication used during times of conflict are accessible to and inclusive of persons with disabilities, and in this particular instance, people from the deaf community in the Congo.

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Filed under Article 11 CRPD, Congo, deaf community, Disability, inclusion, particpation, UNCRPD