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Persons with disabilities ‘forgotten victims’ of Syria’s conflict – UN committee

GENEVA (17 September 2013) – The conflict in Syria is resulting in persons with disabilities facing gross violations of their rights on a daily basis and they need to be afforded much greater protection, the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) has said.

“Living in the midst of conflict is physically and emotionally distressing, but all the more so for persons with disabilities who face the same if not greater barriers in times of armed conflict,” said the Committee, which is composed of 18 independent human rights experts.

“Syria is a State Party to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Article 11 of the Convention says that a State Party is obliged under international humanitarian and human rights law to take all necessary measures to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in situations of risk, including armed conflict,” the CRPD noted.

“All parties to the conflict must stop the deliberate targeting of civilians, and must, in their actions, take all precautions to avoid death or injury to civilians,” added the Committee, which is responsible for monitoring the implementation of the Convention.

“It is vital that humanitarian agencies are allowed to operate without restrictions throughout Syria to provide the assistance needed by persons with disabilities, those with impairments acquired before the conflict and as a result of the conflict. Medical care and emergency aid must be accessible to and inclusive of persons with disabilities,” the experts stressed.

The Committee also voiced grave concern about the plight of persons with disabilities who have fled the fighting and are now in refugee camps in neighbouring countries. “Refugees have faced extreme emotional upheaval, and the stress of being displaced is often all the greater in the case of persons with disabilities,” the CRPD said.

“They and their families often struggle to get the support and to access the services they need,” the CRPD members said. “They are too often the forgotten victims of conflict.”

“However many persons with disabilities have been affected by the Syrian conflict, there is clearly a large number of refugees and internally displaced persons who are disproportionately at risk of being neglected, excluded or even abused because of their impairments and traumas, particularly the most vulnerable women and children with disabilities,” the Committee said.

“As the humanitarian emergency response increases in the region, it is essential that there are inclusive protection and assistance programmes for all in order to guarantee access to human rights and minimum standards of treatment,” the experts said.

ENDS

To find out more about the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities:
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CRPD/Pages/CRPDIndex.aspx

Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities:
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CRPD/Pages/ConventionRightsPersonsWithDisabilities.aspx

For interviews with Committee members (English, French, Arabic and Turkish), please contact Jorge Araya (+41 (0) 22 917 9106/ jaraya@ohchr.org)

For more information and media requests, please contact Cécile Pouilly (+41 (0) 22 917 9310 / cpouilly@ohchr.org)

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