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Pillay: States must remove obstacles to political participation by individuals with disabilities

2 December 2011

GENEVA – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Friday highlighted the “unacceptable obstacles to political participation” confronting individuals with disabilities in all parts of the world, calling on States to ensure respect for the fundamental rights of this large segment of the population.

“The right to political participation and to have a voice in decision-making is one that has been in the spotlight this year around the world,” the UN human rights chief said. “One important, very large, but highly vulnerable group that must not be excluded in this sphere is that of persons with disabilities.”

“Often, such individuals are prevented from exercising this right because of discriminatory laws, the lack of accessible voting booths or because electoral material and information is not available in accessible formats such as sign language and Braille. Such obstacles prevent the exercise of one of the most fundamental human rights – to have a say in one’s own government.”

“Individuals with disabilities should certainly be able to vote and participate in decision-making at the community, local and national levels. It is the obligation of the State to ensure this is possible.”

Speaking ahead of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, which is marked annually on 3 December, the High Commissioner said it was heartening that the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities had been signed by 153 UN Member States since it opened for signature in March 2007.

“The vast majority of UN Member States have recognised the importance of respecting the rights of men, women and children with disabilities to the same quality of life as others,” she said. “They must now urgently set about making the promise of the Convention a reality, including by ensuring that individuals with disabilities are not disenfranchised.”

The UN Human Rights Office will be presenting a study on the rights of individuals with disabilities to participate in political and public life in March to the Human Rights Council.

ENDS

Learn more about the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/AboutUs/Pages/HighCommissioner.aspx

For more information or interviews, please contact UN Human Rights spokesperson Rupert Colville (+ 41 22 917 9767 or rcolville@ohchr.org) or press officers: Ravina Shamdasani (+ 41 22 917 9310 or rshamdasani@ohchr.org) or Xabier Celaya (+ 41 22 917 9383 or xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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