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UN Disability Committee Moves Forward On Treaty Drafts
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
February 10, 2005

UNITED NATIONS--A United Nations panel working on an international treaty regarding the rights of the world's 600 million people with disabilities wrapped up its fifth session on February 4 after moving ahead with drafts on a number of key issues.

According to the UN, the Committee on a Comprehensive and Integral International Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities agreed on a draft to make sure that all nations would allow people with disabilities to exercise their right to freedom of expression and opinion, including the right to seek, receive and give information. This would also require countries to provide information -- free of additional charge -- in accessible formats and with accessible technologies.

The Committee agreed further that persons with disabilities have a right to privacy, and supported measures to make sure they can live independently and as full participants in the community -- including the right to choose where and how to live.

A new draft to guarantee equal access to justice is also being considered.

"This major human rights convention represents a shift in the way governments interact with persons with disabilities," said Don MacKay of New Zealand, who is coordinator of the informal consultations, at a press conference.

"Many have said that the rights of persons with disabilities are already guaranteed in existing human rights treaties, but the reality is that persons with disabilities have been deprived of those rights . . . Many conventions say that such and such people should not be treated differently from others -- but people with disabilities are treated differently from others."

The panel is scheduled to meet again in early August.

There are issues that still need to be resolved, including how personal representatives should be appointed for people considered unable to represent themselves legally, and whether the issue of forced intervention and institutionalization should be separated from the article banning torture and cruel, inhuman, degrading punishment and treatment.

Ambassador Luis Gallegos Chiriboga of Ecuador, who is the Committee Chair, said at the press conference: "This is a historic process -- integrating 600 million people in society."

"The owners of the convention are the people with disabilities; they are the actors who are moving forward the convention. They are the ones who tell us what their problems are, and how to address them."

The Bush administration announced in June of 2003 that the U.S. government would not sign any international treaty protecting people with disabilities from discrimination. Administration officials said such rights should be covered by national measures, such as the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act. While the U.S. would support the work of the panel, the administration said it would not sign any document that could be legally binding.

"Advocates Push For U.S. Support Of U.N. Disability Convention" April 20, 2004 (Inclusion Daily Express)
Ad Hoc Committee On International Convention (United Nations)


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