Human Rights Day 2019
Conference on strengthening the respect of rights of persons with disabilities.
Today, we will discuss a very important topic. How can we jointly better guarantee the equal rights of persons with intellectual disabilities.
Persons with intellectual disabilities are often misunderstood, looked down upon, they are pitied and face discrimination. They cannot exercise their rights on an equal footing with others in many areas of life. Others make decisions for them, they cannot live independently, go to school or, especially for women and girls, face obstacles in getting sexual and reproductive health rights services, to name a few difficulties they face.
In the short time given to me, I will look at some of these issues from the perspective of the CRPD, and share some general and Montenegro specific findings by the Committee on the RPD overseeing the implementation of the Convention and the Special Rapporteur on the RPD appointed by the Human Rights Council.
The CRPD, one of the most ratified human rights conventions globally, calls for a human rights approach to disability. This approach has similarities to the social model to disability. It does not see the person with the impairment as the ‘problem’ but it is society, and the barriers in society that make it difficult for persons who have impairments to interact. People can form these barriers when they have negative attitudes towards persons with disabilities – but barriers can also be physical like inaccessible public buses or structural, like discriminatory laws or policies. The human rights approach calls on all of us to regard persons with disability as rights holders and holders of all rights. In 2017, when conducting its first review of the implementation of CPRD, the Committee on the RPD called on Montenegro to replace the current medical model with a human rights approach to disability, in all laws, policies and measures it takes in support of persons with disabilities.
Persons with intellectual disabilities may require support in exercising their rights. But State or families cannot take their rights away. Depriving persons with intellectual disabilities of their legal capacity has been common throughout history. It happens in many countries in the world as documented by the SR. Guardians are appointed, sometimes for life, medical personnel or courts make decisions for persons with intellectual disabilities. They cannot choose where and with whom they live. They cannot marry, vote or become a parent. The SR has clearly stated that these practices are discriminatory. According to the Committee on the Rights of PWD, having a disability must never be a ground for denying legal capacity.
In Montenegro, persons with intellectual disabilities are placed under guardianship. Earlier this year, UN Resident Coordinator Fiona McCluney spoke about this issue at a roundtable organized by the Ombudsinstitution. I like to recall the hopes she expressed at the time for a revised legal framework , the abolition of permanent deprivation of legal capacity, better monitoring of guardianship, and tailor made support services for those deprived of legal capacity.
Rather than substituting decisions, the Convention requires States to provide support for PWID in their decision-making. The Special Rapporteur has called on States to do so in collaboration with civil society organizations, particularly organizations of persons with disabilities. The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities called on Montenegro to work closely with DPOs. As the SR has said, access to support for persons with disabilities is not only a human rights obligation for States, but also an essential condition in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Not only should States do more to fulfill the rights of persons with intellectual and other types of disabilities. Within our own organization, we have realized that we have to better. This year, under the leadership of the Special Rapporteur, a Disability Inclusion Strategy was drafted. It was launched by the SG in June this year.
Only if we join efforts, we can come closer to making the promise of leaving no-one behind a reality.
Thank you for your attention.
Human Rights Advisor at the UN Resident Coordination Office in Montenegro