In a historic sweeping decision on July 30, 2009, the President of the United States, Barack Obama, signed The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities into law. The President demonstrated by this act, his awareness of the human needs of the 650 million people worldwide who live with a disability. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 13, 2006, and entered into force on May 3, 2008. President Barack Obama is now seeking ratification of a major Human Rights Treaty.
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This UN CRPD is representative of commitment and recognition of Human Rights by the International Community with 142 signatories and 62 ramifications in these last 28 months. The United States has only ratified 3 Conventions in its whole history. They are the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention against Torture and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination) Thus the President's signature represents a strong policy shift toward enforcing Human Rights and supporting the International Treaty which puts disability on top of the agenda. In addition The President of the United States has by supporting the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, shown his leadership on the world stage and his commitment to the ethical and moral principles of Human Rights. His decisive active will encourage other UN member states to also step forward and sign the convention. The UN CRPD binds its States Parties to a revision of all existing legislation, policies and programs to ensure they are in compliance with its provisions. This means that there will be concrete changes that will effectively change the lives of those who live with a disability including: access to education, employment, access to transport, infrastructures and buildings open to the public, granting right to vote and political participation, ensuring full legal capacity to all persons with disabilities, and a shift from institutions where persons with disabilities live separated from society into community and home based services promoting independent living.
In the drafting of the UN convention there was a very important role played by organizations who advocate for disabled people, who assessed the research, developed treaty wording, and clarified important issues. These organizations will continue to play a crucial role in the process of implication and monitoring.
It is important that there be non-discrimination of persons of disability in all areas, including confinement, and the requirement of free and informed consent to medical treatment. In prison conditions, interrogation techniques, or procedures may constitute torture and ill treatment if applied to a person with a disability. Existing physical and/or mental impairments may be aggravated by the infliction of torture, cruel or degrading treatment. It is important to realize that special needs have to be accommodated to live up to relevant human rights obligations.
A number of independent experts indicated that persons with disabilities continue to run an increased risk of falling victim to abuse and neglect in a number of ways:
1) Many are involuntarily confined for long periods at times without legal basis
2) There is lack of proper review mechanisms to ensure human rights are protected
3) Under inadequate conditions inside institutions they are often subjected to restraint, sometimes severe forms of restraint and seclusion
4) They can face physical, mental and sexual violence
5) Persons with disabilities are especially vulnerable to violence and abuse, including sexual abuse, inside the home, at the hands of family members, caregivers, health professionals and members of the community.
6) Persons with disabilities risk being exposed to medical experimentation and intrusive and irreversible medical treatments without their consent.
Of these advocates for the disabled, I want to personally commend the work of the World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry, Mind Freedom International, Judge David L. Brazelon and the Psychiatric Rights Law Project run by Attorney Jim Gottstein. There is still much work to be done as is clear from the position paper offered by the World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry (WNUSP).
Position paper on the principles
for the protection of persons with mental illness
The World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry (WNUSP) voted at its July 2001 General Assembly in Vancouver to call for the United Nations General Assembly to revoke the Principles.
Read the paper here.
The United Nations Convention on
the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Right to be Free from
Nonconsensual Psychiatric Interventions, by Tina Minkowit
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Right to be Free from Nonconsensual Psychiatric Interventions, by Tina Minkowit
International Disability Alliance
(IDA) Position Paper on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with
Disabilities and other Instruments
International Disability Alliance (IDA) Position Paper on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and other Instruments
Contribution to the Office of the United Nations High
Commissioner for Human Rights' from IDA CRPD Forum
Contribution to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights' from IDA CRPD Forum