ASTANA / GENEVA (12 September 2017) – Kazakhstan has shown a strong commitment to advancing the rights of persons with disabilities, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities Catalina Devandas said in a statement at the end of her official visit to the country.
“The positive steps to reform Kazakhstan’s social protection system and provide universal health coverage are a clear indication of this,” she said. The expert also acknowledged initial efforts to improve accessibility for persons with disabilities.
She noted that more efforts are required to fully include persons with disabilities in society, particularly in the areas of education, legal capacity and political participation, and to end institutionalization and involuntary treatment. The Special Rapporteur recognised the openness of the Government to engage in a constructive dialogue on how to address those remaining challenges.
Ms. Devandas called on the State to bring its national legislation on legal capacity and mental health in line with international human rights standards. “Today, people deprived of their legal capacity are not allowed to vote in elections, and risk being irreversibly deprived of their reproductive rights by means of sterilization,” she said.
She highlighted the fact that provisions allowing for involuntary placement in mental health facilities or long-term social care institutions and forcing persons with disabilities to undergo medical interventions without consent are contrary to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The expert acknowledged the State’s initial efforts to move people out of institutions, through pilot projects managed by civil society. However, the process is slow and the numbers of persons de-institutionalized remain insignificant.
“Kazakhstan needs to move fast in establishing a comprehensive deinstitutionalization reform to phase out institutional care and facilitate the transition to living in the communities,” the Special Rapporteur said.
The expert noted that the country has yet to make progress in providing inclusive education. Efforts to include children with disabilities in regular classrooms are still at a pilot stage and need to be scaled-up. During the visit, the expert observed that support services for most children with disabilities are not available, and that they are home-schooled.
“Home schooling should be an exceptional and temporary measure to support children whose health does not allow them to attend school, rather than a practice to further segregate children with disabilities,” she explained.
Ms. Devandas highlighted the important role played by representative organisations of persons with disabilities in informing the reform process, and acknowledged their role to monitor their implementation as well as compliance with the Convention.
She also encouraged the State to establish an independent national mechanism to monitor the implementation of such reforms and to provide funding to independent organisations”, she concluded.
The Special Rapporteur will present a detailed report of her findings and recommendations at the 37th session of the Human Rights Council in March 2018.
Ms Catalina Devandas Aguilar (Costa Rica) took office as the first Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on 1 December 2014. Her mandate recalls the universality, indivisibility, interdependence and interrelatedness of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and the need for persons with disabilities to be guaranteed the full enjoyment of these rights and freedoms without discrimination. It signals that further attention is needed to address the barriers that persons with disabilities continue to face in all parts of the world in their participation as equal members of society.
As a Special Rapporteur, Ms. Devandas is part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent of any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
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