10 February 2005
Committee Negotiating Treaty on Persons with Disabilities Concludes Fifth Session
(Delayed in transmission.)
NEW YORK, 4 February (UN Headquarters) -- The General Assembly Ad Hoc Committee on a convention on the rights of persons with disabilities concluded its fifth session today after reaching further agreements on draft articles addressing access to justice, privacy, family, independent living, full inclusion in the community and other individual rights.
This major human rights convention represents a shift in the way governments interact with persons with disabilities, the coordinator of the informal consultations, Don MacKay of New Zealand, said at a press conference on Friday. 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, Mr. MacKay said, adding that existing treaties had prescribed equal rights, but had not set out in detail what those rights were. The Convention would say not only that persons with disabilities had the same rights as those without, but would spell out in detail what those rights were. It was not enough to simply cover persons with disabilities with the existing general rules, because those rules were being broken. Many countries had fallen into the trap of treating persons with disabilities differently. So, were setting up a new regime and a new way of thinking, and a new sort of paradigm, he said.
The Committee Chair, Ambassador Luis Gallegos Chiriboga of Ecuador, said at the press conference: This is a historic process -- integrating 600 million people in society. As the world ages, there will be more persons with disabilities rather than less. 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.
On freedom of expression and opinion and access to information (article 13), the Committee on a Comprehensive and Integral International Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities agreed on a text providing that States parties should take all measures to ensure that persons with disabilities can exercise their right to freedom of expression and opinion, including the right to seek, receive and impart information on an equal basis with others. In particular, States parties should provide information in a timely manner and without additional costs and in accessible formats and technologies, and facilitate the use of sign language, Braille and augmentative alternative communication.
On safeguarding privacy (article 14), the agreed draft text stipulates that persons with disabilities shall not be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with their privacy and correspondence. A separate draft article was proposed on protection of the home and family, which would ensure the rights of persons with disabilities to decide freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of their children on an equal basis with other persons.
On living independently and inclusion in the community (article 15), there was broad support for committing States parties to take measures to enable persons with disabilities to live independently and as full participants in the community, including the right to choose ones place of residence and living arrangements.
The Committee also considered whether to include a new draft article in the Convention guaranteeing access to justice for persons with disabilities.
Different views remain on some issues, which need to be resolved at subsequent meetings. In particular, there were different approaches on procedures for appointing a personal representative when a person with disabilities is unable to exercise legal capacity with support (article 9); and on whether to separate the issue of forced intervention and forced institutionalization from the article prohibiting torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment and treatment.
Mr. MacKay reminded participants that where general agreement was reached, that did not prejudice to the ability of delegations to reconsider the draft articles at a later stage, when the shape of the overall Convention became clear.
The fifth session concluded on Friday afternoon with the adoption of its report. Mr. Gallegos announced that in a few days he would take up his new post as Ecuadors Ambassador to Australia, and, much to his regret, he would not be able to continue presiding over the Committee, adding, I will always continue to promote the defence of the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities and to further the cause of an enforceable convention.
The next session of the Committee will take place from 1 to 12 August.
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