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