Croatia lifts voting prohibition for people with disabilities

Today the Croatian parliament added 16,355 adults to the electoral register. These people are all under guardianship, a legal regime which, until today, had excluded them from their right to political participation. MDAC and the Croatian NGO Shine had highlighted this anomaly in their 2011 report, “Out of Sight: Human Rights in Psychiatric Hospitals and Social Care Institutions in Croatia”.

“MDAC congratulates Croatia for being the first European country to amend its election law in recent times to allow people with disabilities to vote,” said Oliver Lewis, MDAC Executive Director. “We call upon the government to continue this good work by ensuring that these new voters are enabled to exercise their autonomy in all areas of their life, not just in the ballot box.”

The Croatian government had previously recommended that judges in individual hearings be given the authority to remove someone’s right to vote on the basis of their disability. This proposal flagrantly breaches the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a fact which was pointed out very firmly by civil society organisations including the Association for Social Affirmation of People with Mental Disabilities (SHINE), GONG and the Association for Self-Advocacy. The office of the Disability Ombudsperson also voiced its displeasure with the original proposals, relying on recommendations by the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which insists on disability being no barrier to full and equal political participation.

The new legal provisions are contained in the Register of Voters Act, which enters into force eight days after being published in the Official Gazette, i.e. in approximately two weeks’ time.

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