MDAC calls on UK Government to Ratify Disability Rights Convention without Reservation or Delay

(UPDATE 23 February 2009: The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office has answered MDAC's letter to the Prime Minister. Read the letter here). 

23 January 2009. Today MDAC sent a public letter of concern to Gordon Brown, the British Prime Minister, urging the UK Government to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). MDAC has asked the Prime Minister not to enter any reservations to this important international human rights treaty, which entered into force in May 2008. As of today, 46 UN Member States had ratified the CRPD.

The UK Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights has recently issued a report (in html and pdf), in which it criticised the Government for delaying ratification of the CRPD. The Joint Committee reported that the British Government is considering entering “reservations” or “interpretative statements” (see below for definitions). In its letter, MDAC urges the UK Government to ratify the CRPD without reservations because they are unnecessary, they weaken the UK’s position in international human rights politics, and they dismantle the foundations of the CRPD, a treaty which was passed unanimously by the UN General Assembly.

What can you do? Write to the Prime Minister encouraging a fast and reservation-free ratification of the CRPD. Letters should be addressed to:  Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Gordon Brown MP; 10 Downing Street, London SW1A 2AA, UK. You can send a fax to +44 20 7925 0918 (no email address).

What is a reservation? A reservation is a statement made by a State by which it purports to exclude or alter the legal effect of a specified provision of a treaty as it applies to that State. By adopting reservations, a State is able to accept a treaty as a whole, without legally binding itself to certain provisions it does not wish to comply with. Article 46 of the CRPD states that reservations incompatible with the object and purpose of the Convention are not permitted. It is MDAC's view that the UK's proposed reservation on one of the core issues in the Convention, namely Article 12 on legal capacity, is impermissible on these grounds.

What is an interpretative declaration? An interpretative declaration is a statement made by a State which clarifies its understanding of a specific matter covered by a treaty or a particular provision within a treaty. Unlike reservations, interpretative declarations merely clarify a State's position and do not purport to exclude or modify the legal effect of a treaty. Nevertheless, interpretative declarations are often used as disguised reservations.

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