An advance in universal suffrage in Europe

17 November 2011. MDAC congratulates Europe’s top political body which today adopted new standards which advance the right to political participation of people with disabilities.

The Council of Europe is a supranational organisation focusing on democracy, the rule of law and human rights. Its Committee of Ministers is the organisation’s highest political organ. Today it adopted a Recommendation on the participation of persons with disabilities in political and public life. Recommendations have the status of soft law: they are not legally-binding, but carry significant political weight as they are adopted by consensus by all 47 Member States. The European Court of Human Rights often cites Recommendations in its judgments.

The Recommendation issued today is particularly important as it builds upon the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, calling for European governments to “ensure that their legislation overall does not discriminate against persons with disabilities in political and public life”.

All adult citizens with disabilities should have the right to vote, the Recommendation says, adding that laws should be “devoid” of discriminatory provisions. It specifies that “[a]ll persons with disabilities, whether they have physical, sensory, or intellectual impairments, mental health problems or chronic illnesses, have the right to vote on the same basis as other citizens, and should not be deprived of this right by any law limiting their legal capacity, by any judicial or other decision or by any other measure based on their disability, cognitive functioning or perceived capacity.”

MDAC and several NGO partners has been advocating for universal suffrage for people with disabilities via its Save the Vote campaign. Of particular concern is the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission, whose “Interpretive Declaration” restricts the vote on the basis of a “proven mental disability”. Commenting on today’s developments, MDAC Executive Director Oliver Lewis said: “We applaud Europe’s leaders for clarifying that universal suffrage applies to people with disabilities. However, the credibility of the Venice Commission’s important work on constitutional law reform is at risk unless they amend their Interpretive Declaration, which is so clearly discriminatory.” 

RSS Find us on facebook MDAC is on Twitter Company profile of MDAC on LinkedIn MDAC youtube channel Google plus close