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Report on CRPD Implementation

On 4 and 5 September, the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities will examine Poland’s compliance with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The HFHR has presented a report to the Committee pointing out problems that prevent full implementation of the Convention and making recommendations that need to be implemented in order to ensure the respect of the rights of persons with disabilities.

Comprehensive strategy for persons with disabilities

In the Foundation’s opinion, it is necessary to introduce a coherent strategy or programme to identify problems related to the protection and implementation of the rights of persons with disabilities. The mechanism for the Convention’s implementation should also be reformed. In the Foundation’s assessment, a single central institution should be established to implement practices and action plans for the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities.

Discrimination in access to services

The HFHR has been involved in many proceedings related to discrimination against people with disabilities in access to services. For example, we helped visually impaired people who, due to the presence of an assistance dog, were not allowed to board a bus (link) or had their ophthalmologist’s appointment cancelled (link). These cases show that the current law does fail to provide sufficient guarantees of the rights of persons with disabilities. Consequently, the Foundation in its recommendations noted the need to amend the Equality Act, so that it also protects persons with disabilities from discrimination in access to goods and services. Moreover, in order to effectively address such situations, authorities should take measures to raise awareness of the rights of persons with disabilities.

Legal incapacitation must be abolished

Incapacitation leads to a very serious interference with the rights and freedoms of persons with intellectual or mental disabilities because it results in them being deprived of their capacity to perform acts in law. Current solutions in this respect are contrary to constitutional and international standards of rights protection. The existing regulations should be replaced by solutions that provide for the possibility of a personalised and proportionate response to the difficulties encountered by people with intellectual or mental disabilities in managing their own affairs. The HFHR’s opinion on legal incapacitation can be read here.

Access to justice

Organisationally speaking, the justice system is not fully adapted to the needs of persons with disabilities. One of the most problematic issues is the absence of architectural facilities for these persons at courthouses and prosecutor offices’ buildings. The Foundation has also received signals that the credibility of the testimony given by persons with disabilities (e.g. visually impaired persons) tends to be undermined on the grounds of their disability. There is no comprehensive legal framework in place to allow judges to adequately prepare the conduct of trials for the needs of persons with disabilities. In 2016, the HFHR has prepared a guide for judges and prosecutors with practical observations on the participation of persons with disabilities in steps of proceedings. It is necessary to appropriately educate judges and prosecutors in this area.

Detention conditions

The Foundation receives complaints from persons with disabilities placed in pre-trial detention centres or serving time in prisons. The complainants mention insufficient access to appropriate treatment in prison facilities or the absence of reasonable accommodation for disabled inmates, such as the support of a qualified carer, the availability of hearing aids or orthopaedic appliances. In 2017, the HFHR lodged an application with the ECtHR in the case of inappropriate treatment of a prisoner suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. Authorities should ensure that persons with disabilities are provided with conditions of detention that respect their dignity and the right to adequate health care.

Situation at nursing homes and psychiatric wards

Persons with disabilities should be able to access a wide and diverse system of support services; their placement at a nursing home or hospital should be a measure of last resort and not the only form of assistance. Authorities should also effectively monitor public and private care facilities to ensure that persons with disabilities are not abused or subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment. It is necessary to introduce a mechanism of judicial review of the reasonableness of extended involuntary placement at a psychiatric hospital or compulsory administration of medication.

The Foundation has also highlighted the need to amend the provisions that prohibit marriages between persons with disabilities. In addition, the Foundation believes that the legal rule for the automatic disenfranchisement of incapacitated persons should be changed. At the same time, it is necessary to improve the accessibility of polling stations and modify electoral procedures to ensure that persons with disabilities have a meaningful opportunity to participate in political life.

The English version of the report is available here.

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