COMMITTEE NEGOTIATING TREATY ON PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES
DISCUSSES INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS, FREEDOMS
Meeting for its fifth session, the General Assembly Ad Hoc Committee on a convention on the rights of persons with disabilities concluded its first week by discussing draft articles addressing equal recognition before the law, liberty and security of the person and other individual rights.
"We had quite a long and hard week", the Coordinator of the informal consultations, Ambassador Don MacKay of New Zealand, said on Friday, "but we have covered quite a bit of material. The issues we covered were especially difficult -- more difficult than other parts of the text. The articles that follow deal with action by States parties to put these issues into practice, and are more mechanical."
On the right to life (draft article 8), 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 would take all measures necessary to ensure the enjoyment of this right by persons with disabilities on an equal basis with others. An additional article would recognize the particular vulnerability of persons with disabilities in situations of risk and the need for States to take all feasible measures for their protection.
On equal recognition as persons before the law (draft article 9), the agreed text stipulates that States parties would recognize that persons with disabilities had legal capacity on an equal basis with others in all fields. When persons with disabilities needed support to exercise their legal capacity, assistance should be proportional to the degree of support required and tailored to the person's circumstances. When a person is unable to exercise legal capacity with support, States should appoint a personal representative to exercise legal capacity on the person's behalf, tailored to the person's circumstances, and ensuring that the person's decisions, choices and wishes are taken into account to the maximum extent possible.
The discussion on legal capacity revealed different interpretations in different legal systems. There was general understanding that legal capacity meant having legal rights and obligations and the right to be recognized before the law. But differences remained on the capacity to act, and Mr. MacKay said further consideration was needed in light of article 9, as a whole, and other parts of the Convention.
On liberty and security of the person (draft article 10), the agreed draft requires States parties to ensure that persons with disabilities enjoy this right without discrimination based on disability and that any deprivation of liberty be in conformity with the law and in no case be justified by disability.
On freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment (draft article 11), States parties are to take measures to prevent persons with disabilities being subjected to such treatment or punishment. In particular, they are to prohibit medical and scientific experiments without the consent of the person concerned and to protect disabled persons from forced interventions or institutionalization.
On freedom from violence and abuse (draft article 12), States are to take measures to protect persons with disabilities from all forms of violence, injury, abuse, neglect, mistreatment or exploitation. However, participants were split on whether to have a provision on the need to educate families and/or caregivers to prevent and address situations of abuse.
Mr. MacKay reminded participants that they were not there to agree on the final text, but to develop the draft further, so that delegations could have a more developed text for review.
Informal consultations on articles 13, 14 and 15 will continue this week. Subsequently, the Committee will review articles 16 to 25 under the chairmanship of Ambassador Luis Gallegos Chiriboga of Ecuador. The fifth session will conclude on Friday, 4 February.
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