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UNCRPD and The Optional Protocol
Disability

What you need to know

How we can help

Related links

 

Get Involved


The UN Convention has an additional section called the 'Optional Protocol' which allows individuals who believe that their Convention rights have been breached to bring complaints to the UN Disability Committee (provided they have exhausted national and European means of redress). The Committee can also undertake enquiries into alleged grave or systematic violations of UNCRPD.
 

How do I make a complaint about a violation of UNCRPD?


Within Northern Ireland you are protected by the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) and the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA) if you have been subjected to unlawful treatment because of your disability.

As these fall under the responsibility of the Equality Commission and NI Human Rights Commissions, you should contact us before you do anything else. We can advise you on next steps with your complaint.

Although you cannot take the Government to court in direct relation to breaches of UNCRPD, there are several ways in which you can use it to strengthen your case - whether you are challenging the Government or a public body. For example, if you are taking a case under the Disability Discrimination Act, you can rely on the relevant Convention Article(s) to help the court interpret its meaning. Similarly, you can also rely on UNCRPD when you pursue a complaint against a public authority internally, using the Section 75 complaints mechanism or through inspectorates.
 

Time limits

If you are considering legal action or making a complaint to the UN Disability Committee, be aware of time limits. You only have a certain amount of time to bring a claim or a judicial review after your rights have been breached.

The time limits for taking a complaint under the Disability Discrimination Act in NI are:
 


To find out about the time limits in cases under the Human Rights Act, please contact the NI Human Rights Commission
 

  • You must make your complaint to the UN Disability Committee within six months of going through the UK or European courts.
 

How do I make a complaint to the UN Disability Committee?

Once you have tried the other routes of making a complaint, and have failed, you may decide to take your complaint to the UN Disability Committee. The Optional Protocol of the UNCRPD provides two methods by which the UN Disability Committee can investigate compliance:
 

1. The communications procedure allows people to bring a petition to the UN Disability Committee if they believe that their Convention rights have been breached and they have exhausted means of redress via the UK courts.

 

2. The inquiry procedure allows the UN Disability Committee to undertake inquiries, when reliable information is received into allegations of grave or systematic violations of Convention rights.

 

1. The Communications procedure

The communications procedure allows you to bring a petition to the UN Disability Committee if you believe that your Convention rights have been breached and you have exhausted means of redress via the UK courts. If you are not the victim you must have permission to act on the victim´s behalf.

The complaint is against the government
It cannot be brought against other authorities, for example your council. If you believe that the Assembly at Stormont is in breach of UNCRPD, then you must still complain against the UK Government although it would be best to first use any available complaints mechanisms.

The complaint must be well-founded
This means you need evidence that a real human rights violation has taken place. The violation must clearly relate to one or more articles of UNCRPD:

  • The complaint does not go against the principles and rights set out in UNCRPD. You have used all the possible legal remedies available in the United Kingdom without success;
  • There is no national law you can use to enforce that particular Convention right. For example there is no national law that says that government has a duty to ensure disabled people have an adequate standard of living and an accessible home. However, if you are living in real hardship or in conditions that cause you loss of dignity, even after claiming all the benefits and grants you are entitled to or because of grossly inadequate housing, this might be a situation where a complaint could be made to the UN Disability Committee (because the government has not taken enough steps to make real the right to an adequate standard of living, Article 28);
  • The issue you are complaining about must have either happened after the UK ratified UNCRPD, or if it started before the date of ratification (8 June 2009), it must still be continuing at the time you want to make the complaint;
  • You cannot make an anonymous complaint;
  • The issue must be one the UN Disability Committee has not looked at before; and
  • The issue must be one that is not being looked at by another international rights body like the European Court of Justice or the European Court of Human Rights.


How do I make my complaint?
If your complaint meets all criteria and you have been advised to go ahead you will need to put it in writing and send it to the UN Disability Committee. The UN Disability Committee will provide information on its website on making a complaint. Also see the Complaints Procedures for UN Human Rights bodies and procedure for complaints by individuals under the human rights treaties.

What happens next?
If the UN Disability Committee accepts your complaint, it will ask the Government to respond. The Committee then meets in private and decides upon a finding. The Committee gives both parties a copy of its recommendations, and a summary is included in its annual report.

The Committee´s findings and recommendations may not be enforceable but they carry a lot of moral authority. Due to the moral authority wielded by organisations such as the UN and the reputational damage that would arise from ignoring such recommendations, it may force a government to pass new legislation, change a policy or find the money to sort the issue out.

 

2. The inquiry procedure

The inquiry procedure allows the UN Disability Committee to undertake inquiries, when reliable information is received into allegations of grave or systematic violations of Convention rights.

How do you get the UN Disability Committee to launch an inquiry into human rights violations?
The UN Disability Committee can launch an inquiry into severe or widespread violations of UNCRPD by any country which has ratified UNCRPD and Optional Protocol. ´Widespread´ means the violations affect a lot of disabled people and/or appear to be part of a deliberate policy. The Committee would need reliable evidence about the alleged violations before deciding an inquiry is needed. Individuals or organisations can submit evidence or use the ´individual communications procedure´ to bring such breaches of rights to the attention of the UN Committee.

If you think there is evidence of severe or widespread violations of Convention rights that the UN Disability Committee should investigate you would need to:

  • work together with other disability groups and the national Human Rights Commissions to assemble detailed evidence about the rights violations; and
  • write to the UN Disability Committee asking them to investigate.
     
You should check if either the Equality Commission or NI Human Rights Commission would be willing to conduct an inquiry instead. To seek advice about whether a UN inquiry is needed contact us

Experience of inquiries under UN conventions show that they can be an effective way of stopping human rights abuses and bringing about change.
 

You can also submit a report to the UN Committee

You can submit an alternative report to the UN Committee which should be short, clear, concise, accurate and objective and provide a short explanation where laws, policies and procedures are specific to Northern Ireland.

Your focus can be on one or more Articles, but there is no requirement to take account of all. Ensure you identify the current situation, which must be Article specific, and make recommendations / questions for the UN Committee to consider.

Make recommendations that improve or resolve the situation and follow these rules:
 

  • Only one action per recommendation
  • Identify the relevant Government department, for example NI Executive
  • Make recommendations measureable
  • Propose a time frame for implementation
  • Avoid vague or general recommendations
  • Identify targeted questions

It is advisable to provide supporting evidence, such as:

  • Research
  • Case law
  • Statistics
  • Personal experience

A timeline is available below but we would recommend that you submit your report as early as possible.

 
 

Speak out and shape your future
We, as the Independent Mechanism for Northern Ireland, are continuing in our efforts to ensure you are central to our own work, but also to encourage you to directly engage with the UN Committee to drive change. We are always interested in your views on the gaps between public policy and programmes in NI and the requirements of the UNCRPD.
 
  • Email us:  CRPDEnquiries@equalityni.org
  • Phone us: 028 90 500 570
  • Tweet us: @EqualityCommNI
  • Write to us: Independent Mechanism for Northern Ireland, Equality Commission for NI, Equality House, 7-9 Shaftesbury Square, Belfast BT2 7DP
 
< Key Developments (UNCRPD)
< What is UNCRPD?
< Addressing inequality
 
 
We are always interested in your views on the gaps between public policy and programmes in Northern Ireland and the requirements of the UNCRPD.

  • Email us:  CRPDEnquiries@equalityni.org
  • Phone us: 028 90 500 570
  • Tweet us: @EqualityCommNI
  • Write to us: Independent Mechanism for Northern Ireland, Equality Commission for NI, Equality House, 7-9 Shaftesbury Square, Belfast BT2 7DP
     

Links to information on Disability related areas
 


Disability rights:
 

 




< UNCRPD Key Developments
< What is UNCRPD?
< Addressing inequality
 
 
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