Friday, April 13, 2007

International disability law

The newest arrival in the U.N. depository is the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, in which states parties promise "to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities" --persons "who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others." (art. 1)
Last week, on the 1st day the treaty was opened, 80-plus states signed and 1, Jamaica, ratified the Convention. About half that number signed the Optional Protocol, by which the soon-to-be-established Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities may hear communications from persons or groups claiming that a member state has violated their treaty-based rights. Signatories include 2 of the largest states in North America -- Canada and Mexico -- but not the 3d.
Last December the United States "welcome[d] the U.N. General Assembly's adoption of the treaty, and stressed that it had already done much via laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act. Yet the U.S. delegate expressed 2 concerns:
1st, pointing to art. 25(a)'s promise, he stated that "the United States understands" that the phrase "does not include abortion, and that its use in that article does not create any abortion rights and cannot be interpreted to constitute support, endorsement or promotion of abortion."
2d concern -- preamble ¶ (u) and art. 11; the former provides:

Bearing in mind that conditions of peace and security based on full respect for the purposes and principles contained in the Charter of the United Nations and observance of applicable human rights instruments are indispensable for the full protection of persons with disabilities, in particular during armed conflicts and foreign occupation ....

"[R]eference in this human rights Convention to armed conflict and foreign occupation, which," the United States maintains, "are governed by international humanitarian law and not by human rights law, would create unnecessary legal confusion and thus potentially undermine the extensive protections already available under international humanitarian law to protected persons in those situations," the delegate said. In so doing he echoed assertions the United States has made since September 11, 2001, to the Committee Against Torture and other international bodies. None yet has been swayed by the U.S. position.

No comments: