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Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities reviews the report of Algeria

GENEVA (30 August 2018) - The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities today concluded its consideration of the initial report of Algeria on how the State party implements the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Introducing the report, Ghania Eddalia, Minister for National Solidarity, Family and Women of Algeria, reaffirmed that equality before the law and non-discrimination were cornerstones of the country’s legal system.  Education was obligatory for all children from the age of six and Algeria was striving to fully include children with specific needs: 37,000 children with disabilities were integrated into the education system, including 32,500 who were in mainstream schools.  The principles governing the employment of persons with disabilities in the public and private sectors was set out by the law, which introduced a one per cent quota and provided for incentives for employers.  In line with the principle of solidarity, the State cared for persons with disabilities unable to work; the 518,000 such individuals received social allocations, free transport, and other services.  There were 61 institutions spread throughout the country which cared for 7,551 children with disabilities.  Algeria, the Minister concluded, was aware of the many challenges ahead which could only be addressed through a comprehensive approach based on a national strategy inclusive of families and representative organizations of persons with disabilities.

Committee Experts took positive note of the laws that protected the rights of persons with disabilities but were concerned about the wide gap between the law and practice, and that the efforts to harmonize the legislation with the Convention fell short, including in the definition of disability in the 2002 Disability Law, and that laws still contained derogatory terms such as “imbecile” or “incapable”.  Algeria seemed to confound the concept of inclusive education with integrated education, they remarked, and asked whether the critically important disability assessment was human rights-based and if multiple methods had been eliminated with the view of promoting transparency and consistency in decision-making.  A particular issue of concern was that more than 7,000 children with disabilities were still in institutions, while they should be with families and in inclusive settings.  The delegation was asked about measures to protect women with disabilities from violence and abuse, and promote their access to basic services including reproductive health care; the support for representative organizations of persons with disabilities and how they were empowered to actively participate in the drafting of laws and policies; and the amendments to anti-discrimination provisions in the Criminal Code to fully align them with the Convention.

In concluding remarks, Ms. Eddalia thanked the Committee Experts for the quality and relevance of their questions, and took good note of the comments concerning the need to align the legislation with the Convention.  

Coomaravel Pyaneandee, Committee Rapporteur for Algeria, urged Algeria to ratify the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Africa, so that there could be regional monitoring of the improvements of the situation of persons with disabilities in the country.

Theresia Degener, Committee Chairperson, said that this constructive dialogue had shown, once again, the challenges that many countries encountered in implementing the Convention, including in the understanding of the human rights-based model of disability.

The delegation of Algeria was composed of the representatives of the Ministry for National Solidarity, Family and Women, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Justice, and the Permanent Mission of Algeria to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

All the documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage.  The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings will be available via the following link: http://webtv.un.org/meetings-events/.

The Committee will next meet in public at 5 p.m. on Friday, 31 August to commemorate its tenth anniversary.

Report

The Committee has before it the initial report of Algeria (CRPD/C/DZA/1).

Presentation of the Report

GHANIA EDDALIA,Minister for National Solidarity, Family and Women of Algeria, recalled that Algeria had ratified the Convention in 2009 and said that the initial report, elaborated in collaboration with many stakeholders, presented the obstacles and problems that persons with disabilities faced in the country.  This was an important exercise, said the Minister, as it would enable Algeria to identify gaps in policies and efforts to improve the situation of persons with disabilities.  Equality before the law and non-discrimination were cornerstones of the legal system in Algeria, irrespective of disability, and the State had an obligation to protect vulnerable groups and ensure their social integration.  The principle of equality was enshrined in the country’s laws, including in its civil code, criminal code, media law, and others.  The National Council for Persons with Disabilities had been set up in 2006, while the Committee for Prevention of Disabilities, in keeping with the June 2017 decree on measures to prevent disabilities, served as a point of coordination between different institutions working on disability issues.

Algeria had adopted a policy of solidarity, the Minister noted, stressing that all citizens, including persons with disabilities, had the right to education.  Education was obligatory for all children from the age of six.  Since the ratification of the Convention, Algeria had been endeavouring to fully include children with specific needs into education, and today 37,000 such children were integrated into schools, of which 32,500 were in mainstream schools.  Specific classes had been created as well, and specific support was being provided through the Centre for Mental Disabilities.  There were 232 specialized institutions that provided specialized support to children with disabilities and they received financial support from the Government amounting to 10 billion Algerian dinars.  Sign language was being used to facilitate access to education for people with hearing difficulties, and baccalaureate exams in 2017/2018 had been opened to all persons with disabilities.

Legislation defined the principles that governed the employment of persons with disabilities in the public and private sectors, including the incentives for employers and one per cent quotas for persons with disabilities, while the National Loan Agency had financed 1,522 projects during the 2005-2018 period.  The Government’s role was to facilitate access to the labour market for persons with disabilities and support their professional careers in order to aid their social integration.  In July 2016, an international forum on accessibility had been organized with the support of the European Union to strengthen access for persons with disabilities.  The State took care of persons with disabilities who were unable to take care of themselves and provided different forms of support, including social security, free transport, and other services and benefits.  Some 7,551 children with disabilities were cared for by 61 institutions spread throughout the country, and 518,000 persons with disabilities without any professional activity were registered in the social register and received over 6 million Algerian dinars.  

In collaboration with the European Union, support was being provided to representative organizations of persons with disabilities, and in particular to promote the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the labour market.  The Minister concluded by acknowledging the many challenges ahead, and stressed that addressing them would not be possible without adopting a comprehensive approach based on a national strategy, which would include families and representative organizations of persons with disabilities.  

Questions from the Experts

COOMARAVEL PYANEANDEE,Committee Rapporteur for Algeria, took positive note of the many laws that protected the rights of persons with disabilities, but the gap between law and practice still remained wide.  Fundamental gaps remained in the harmonization of laws and policies with the Convention, especially concerning the disability assessment process, and the situation of women with disabilities.  There might be some confusion about the concept of inclusive education, which in Algeria seemed to be confounded with integrated education.  The Rapporteur also raised issues of legal capacity, reliable data and statistics, and finally asked the delegation about the independence of the National Human Rights Commission.

Other Experts recognized the efforts toharmonize legislation with the Convention and noted that those efforts fell short when the definition of disability in the 2002 Disability Law was concerned.  Furthermore, the laws still contained derogatory terms and language, such as “imbecile”.  The financial and many other supports and benefits were allocated on the basis of the percentage of disability - what criteria were being used to determine the degree of disability?  

What measures were in place to protectwomen with disabilities from violence and abuse, and promote their access to health, education, employment and reproductive health services?  Could the delegation provide information on “hidden” women with disabilities – those at home or in institutions, and the training programmes for social workers providing support to women with disabilities?

Turning to theNational Council for Persons with Disabilities, an Expert asked the delegation to explain its role, mandate and composition, and also to inform on other representative organizations of persons with disabilities and action taken to support them.  The Expert commended the inclusion ofanti-discrimination provisions in the Criminal Code and asked how those provisions would be improved to fully comply with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  Why were there no cases and sanctions for the violation of this article of the Criminal Code?

Was any training on the Convention being provided to Government officials?  How were persons with disabilities, including those with intellectual disabilities, included inawareness programmes?

Was the law onreasonable accommodation in line with the Convention, did the private sector and the Government have a duty to provide reasonable accommodation, and what system was in place to monitor the implementation of nationalaccessibility standards?

It had been reported that identification cards and passports contained information on disability – how was such data being used?

THERESIA DEGENER,Committee Chairperson, remarked that disability assessment was essential to receive various benefits but it could also limit many rights.  How was disability assessed in Algeria, and were representative organizations of persons with disabilities involved in disability assessment, was it human rights based, and were multiple methods of assessment eliminated with the view of promoting transparency and consistency in decision-making.  More than 7,000 children with disabilities were institutionalized, said the Chair, stressing that institutions were not proper settings; children with disabilities should be with families and in inclusive settings.  What progress was being made in thedeinstitutionalization process?

COOMARAVEL PYANEANDEE,Committee Rapporteur for Algeria, asked about budgetary allocations to support representative organizations of persons with disabilities over the past year and how they were empowered to actively participate in policy and legislative drafting.  Was Algeria ready to amend the law and recognize all forms of discrimination?  Would it now be possible to create a forum where children with disabilities could freely express their views?  What was the budget allocation for awareness raising and what priority was accorded to it?

Responses by the Delegation

In response to Experts’ questions, a delegate explained that Algeria had already changed thedefinition of disability in the law, but that efforts to bring it fully in line with the Convention continued.

TheNational Council on Disabilities had been established in May 2002 and was composed of representatives of different ministries and civil society organizations, including those which did not deal with disabilities specifically, but worked with different categories of the population that might be affected by disability such as children.  Currently, 1,700 associations focusing on disabilities had been registered throughout the country and they worked hand in hand with various sectors and ministries.  The Ministry for Solidarity provided them with financial support, after assessing the applications submitted by them to the central commission, including for specific projects.  The federation of associations took part in the National Council on Disability; they were involved in various fields of activities and were free to undertake the activities they deemed necessary, including awareness raising.  It was important to ensure that they complied with the law on association, stressed the delegate.

Responding to questions on “hidden women with disabilities”, the delegation insisted that all persons with disabilities in the country, including women, were identified, usually by associations which worked in provinces, and which, in addition to identifying each individual in need of support, provided that support and assistance.  There were also 260 so-called solidarity cells which operated under the National Agency for Social Development.  Staffed with medical doctors, social workers and other professionals, they were tasked with conducting visits to remote and isolated areas, meeting families and assessing their socio-economic status as well as specific needs.

The Government provided persons with disabilities withhousing compliant with minimum norms, for example social housing with capped rent.

Algeria was among the first countries to have ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and had been very active since.  More than 108,000 bodies were active and accredited by the Education Ministry and over 1,700 bodies provided education to persons with disabilities, such as national unions, federations, and associations, in provinces and in the capital alike.  In terms of theeducation of children with disabilities, Algeria had chosen a diversified approach which promoted the integration of children with disabilities, including children with hearing and visual impairments, and children with autism and Down Syndrome.  The number of children with disabilities integrated in the education system had grown from 3,500 in 2014/15 to over 37,000 enrolled in the 2017/18 school year.  Children unable to follow the national curriculum were provided with education in one of the 232 special education centres, of which 58 supported children with progressive mental impairments.

In compliance with the Convention, a committee representing civil society organizations had been created, and it had adopted a normative document in this domain.  Disability associations were actively involved in a large-scale awareness raising public campaign.

A medical commission fordisability assessment had been created in 2003; it was composed of medical doctors and had a fully medical approach, which was important in the current context of the reform.  A tool recently developed with the support of French experts allowed for the assessment of a general situation of the disability, and it was aligned with the United Nations World Health Organization standards and classifications.  Algeria was also overhauling the medical commission itself: it used to be made up only of physicians and the process of including disability experts was ongoing, including local experts and local cells that were close to where persons with disabilities lived.

The delegation stressed that Algeria spent a full one third of its gross domestic product onsocial spending, national solidarity, social protection, and support for all sectors of the population in need of care, including persons with disabilities.  This was a carefully articulated and major State effort.  Education was free, from primary school up to the university, and the 8.5 million children currently in school received free textbooks, free transport and free school meals.

The National Human Rights Observatory had been created in 1992, and by a Presidential decree had been transformed into the Advisory Commission.  The new Constitution had established the current fully independentNational Human Rights Commission, created by an act of Parliament, and accredited under the Paris Principles.

As a State intent on preserving the rights of persons with disabilities, Algeria did not accept the use ofderogatory language, a delegate stressed.  
 
According to the 1998 census, there were 1.6 million persons with disabilities in Algeria, and the number was estimated at two million today.  Another census would take place in 2018, and the ministry in charge would developdisability-related data and statistics in line with the Washington Group recommendations.

Social assistance was based on the system of allowances, the amount of which depended on the percentage of disability.  Persons with disabilities and other people in need could access other support services such as housing or subsidized transport.

Questions from the Experts

In the next round of questions, Committee Experts raised concern about the denial oflegal capacity to persons with intellectual or psycho-social disabilities who were subjected to the system of guardianship, sometimes even without their knowledge or consensus.  What were the current or planned projects for the inclusion of assisted decision-making to ensure that the will and preferences of the individual were respected?  How did prisoners with disabilities enjoyreasonable accommodation?  

An Expert welcomed the existence of centres providing care and support towomen victims of violence, and asked how they were accessible to women with disabilities.  What options were there for persons with disabilities needing around-the-clock services to obtain such support, whether they lived independently or within the family?

The delegation was further asked to explain how the national commission on internationalhumanitarian emergencies was inclusive of persons with disabilities, including in evacuations in case of disaster; training for the judiciary, police and prison officials to understand the needs ofpersons with disabilities in the judicial system; to explain steps to remove the guardianship law and introducesupported decision-making models; and to describe the support for persons with disabilities wishing to live independently in the community, including going to the movies, visiting friends, going to sports events, and others.

What was being done to find out the number ofwomen with disabilities living in rural and isolated areas and to assure that violence against them was prevented and that they had adequate legal recourse?  What were the “numerous measures” concerning persons with disabilities living in institutions.  A Committee Expert asked whether they included deinstitutionalization?

An Expert remarked that the delegation had mentioned that one of the missions of the Central Development Agency was to contribute toempowerment and inclusion of persons with disabilities, and asked the delegation to explain how this mission was discharged.

COOMARAVEL PYANEANDEE,Committee Rapporteur for Algeria, in response to the response by the delegation, said that some of thederogatory terms used in the legislation, namely in the Civil Code and the Criminal Code, were “imbecile” and “incapable”, and urged Algeria to remove this terminology from the statute books as soon as possible.  Whatage-appropriate accommodation was in place during the interrogation, detention and arrest of suspects with disabilities in pre-trial procedures?  The Rapporteur asked for statistics on cases oftorture and ill-treatment, and for information about the ratification of the Second Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture.

Responses by the Delegation

In response to questions raised on violence against women, and thepoor treatment of elderly women, the delegation said that the 2015 law N°1519 modified and complemented the Penal Code and broadened sanctions for aggressive acts against the elderly.  There were 11 active centres that provided multidisciplinary support to senior citizens, in which the number of residents changed from one month to another; currently, 719 residents were persons with disabilities of which 129 were women with disabilities.  In addition, Algeria also maintained a policy on the integration and inclusion of senior citizens in the family and community.  Legal assistance was available to the elderly as well, on matters such as inheritance, accommodation, divorce, and others.  In a Muslim country, providing care for the elderly was extremely important, the delegation stressed, noting that efforts were ongoing to encourage young people to keep their elderly relatives in family homes.

Turning to the questions raised onpersons with disabilities in risk situations, the delegate explained that as per a presidential decree, urgent mobile social response teams had been created to provide urgent assistance to people following disasters.  The teams included social workers, national solidarity, networks, and other actors, and operated according to established protocols which took into account vulnerability.  For example, during the 2015-2017 period, the teams had assisted 2,069 people, of which over 400 were persons with disabilities.  The civil protection service operated ambulances which were fully equipped to provide urgent assistance to persons with disabilities.

Explaining the principle of solidarity, the delegation said that the State’s support to individuals who could not work was a right guaranteed for life by five articles of the Constitution.  The National Social Protection agency allocatedfinancial benefits to people without any income, persons with disabilities unable to work, people with chronic or hard to treat diseases, people responsible for one of more children with disabilities without income, and other vulnerable categories.  The municipal office for social affairs handled applications and set payments on the basis of the documents and disability cards, and issued payment orders on a monthly basis, which were paid through the post office.  As of March 2018, 760,000 persons with disabilities had received allowances as part of the national solidarity programme; 248,000 carers of children with disabilities had also received allowances.  Women represented 60 per cent of the recipients of this allowance.  The National Agency for Credits and Microcredits, created in 2015, aimed to increase social participation for all vulnerable groups, and in particular the autonomy of persons with disabilities.  During the 2015 to 2018 period, the Agency had allocated 1,532 micro credits, of which 544 to women.

Thebudget allocated for care for persons with disabilities in 2018 was 38.55 billion Algerian dinars, including 9.36 billion for the solidarity allowance; 10.36 billion for the management of specialized centres providing care for children with disabilities; and 32 million to the three centres which provided training on disability to professionals, including nurses and teachers.  
 
The National Committee on theEase of Access was in place and was composed of representatives of the Government, civil society and the main federation of persons with disabilities.  It operated through its three Sub-Committees: on accessible buildings, accessible transportation, and accessible media.  The Committee was working on developing an accessibility policy for housing for persons with disabilities, and was also developing accessibility standards to be included in built environment training.  

Work was ongoing to make the beaches in numerous beach centresaccessible, and the State, within its solidarity programme, provided summer residences for persons with disabilities.  The sign language dictionary had been compiled and launched in December 2017, while 110 reading rooms and more than 100 libraries had been equipped with books in Braille books.  More than 1,000 classrooms and 550 workshops had been rehabilitated to respond to the needs of students with disabilities, and the rehabilitation of 200 university lecture halls was ongoing.

Turning to the system of legal capacity for persons with disabilities, the delegation said that the legal capacity of individuals was established based on the criteria prescribed by the Civil Code.  Those declared completely incapacitated were referred to the legal system of guardianship.  When a deaf, mute, blind, or blind-mute was able to express their will, the court was obliged to provide assistance to help them in situations where their interests were at stake.  The legislative reform process was underway in Algeria, and it touched on many areas of the Civil Code, and Algeria would take the Committee’s comments concerning the legal capacity of persons with disabilities under advisement.

The Constitution guaranteed equality before the law to all citizens, including those with disabilities, and a policy was in place to ensureequal access to all jurisdictions for all and to establish a non-discrimination environment for persons with disabilities, including facilitated access to court buildings, specialized chairs, Braille printers and reception services tailored to persons with disabilities.  There was also a one-stop shop that provided communication in Braille, sign language and large print, and over 260 clerks had been trained in sign language.  Currently, 222 civil servants in the justice system were persons with disabilities, of those 65 were women.  

As for the freedom and security ofpersons with disabilities in detention, the delegation explained that the training programme of prison staff included modules on human rights and the standard minimum rules for the treatment of prisoners.  Prisoners with reduced mobility had wheelchairs and were accommodated on the ground floor.  All prisoners with disabilities had the right to specialized health care free of charge, in medical institutions which were answerable to the Ministry of Justice.  All prisons received regular monitoring visits by judges and other authorised personnel to examine the legality and conditions of detention.

Responding to a question raised about theforced institutionalization of persons with disabilities without their consent, the delegation explained that an individual could only be arrested or detained according to the provisions of the law, and no one could be arrested or transferred to an institution, including a mental health institution, without a legal decision.

Algeria had prohibitedtorture in its very first Constitution, it had ratified the Convention against Torture, and recognized the capacity of the Committee against Torture to receive individual communications and complaints of torture.  The Criminal Code severely punished authors, perpetrators and accomplices in all and any act of torture, which was one of the worst violations of human dignity.  There could be no seizure or detention of anyone, including persons with disabilities, without a judicial or legal warrant, and this included a transfer of individuals to specialized medical institutions.

TheNational Council for Disability was an advisory body which studied and gave opinions on a number of issues of relevance to persons with disabilities; it was also a forum for a privileged exchange of views between the Government, civil society organizations, and persons with disabilities.  It had 47 members, of which 20 were from non-governmental organizations, such as the Algerian Federation for Persons with Disabilities, managed by persons with disabilities themselves; the National Federation of Relatives of Children with Intellectual Disabilities, managed by its members; the Federation of Sports Professionals, managed by the sports professionals; and others.  The Council had its own independent budget.

The Centre for children with specific needs had been created two years ago, and there were eight national centres which provided support for children with motor impairments.  Algeria was committed to “fighting mental impairments” through a national plan 2017-2020, which included actions in six key areas.  Furthermore, a law adopted in July 2018 had 39 articles dedicated to mental health.

Women with disabilities living in distant and remote areas were provided with support and care - medical and psychological - through regional cells staffed with social workers, medical doctors and psychologists, who worked under the aegis of the National Agency for Social Development.  There were 13 social development projects which targeted women with disabilities in remote and isolated areas.

There were appropriate mechanisms for theparticipation of persons with disabilities in decision-making, the delegation continued, including as civil servants and Members of Parliament.  The policy on the protection of persons with disabilities aimed to promote their social and vocational integration.  Following the determination of disability by an accredited physician, persons with disabilities were issued with a disability card.  There were over 900,000 persons with a disability card.

Questions from the Experts

The interactive dialogue continued with a discussion on theright to vote and how Algeria ensured that persons with disabilities enjoyed this right in equality with others, and also what was in place to ensure equal access to information, for example in easy to read or large print.  How many persons with disabilities in Algeria lacked legal capacity and how many persons with intellectual disabilities voted in the elections?

The delegation was asked to inform on the kind of support provided tofamilies of children with disabilities to enable them to live with their children, and measures in place to ensure that children with disabilities who were removed from the families were not isolated; whetherpersons with disabilities in employment benefitted from lower retirement age and how they were protected from discrimination in promotions; and the extent of the consultation with persons with disabilities ininternational cooperation treaties and projects, including in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

Experts also addressed the implementation of the principle of reasonable accommodation in education and training, and how the right toinclusive education was being implemented in practice.  Did persons with psycho-social disabilities and deaf impairments have full access to vocational training?

What steps were being taken to guaranteeautonomous and barrier-free living conditions in all aspects of life of persons with disabilities?

Responses by the Delegation

The right to freedom of expression was guaranteed to all citizens in Algeria, a delegate said, explaining that efforts were ongoing to expand the fibre network throughout the country to enable greater online access to information and the participation of persons with disabilities in social, cultural and economic life.  To further facilitateaccess to information and freedom of expression for children with disabilities and their families, 46 schools across the country provided training in sign language, while civil servants could access sign language training thought three specialized school.

The political process was set out by the Electoral Code which enshrined the right toparticipation in political life, and nothing restricted or prevented the political participation of persons with disabilities.  Polling stations were usually set up on the ground floor of primary schools, which meant they were close to each neighbourhood and were accessible.  Electoral lists and information were not as yet provided in Braille.

Algeria was very vocal on the need to include disability in theSustainable Development Goals, a delegate recalled, noting that the national programme for their implementation had been adopted, with the input of persons with disabilities.

Although a disability survey had already been conducted, the reliable and accuratedata and statistics on persons with disabilities would only be available after the 2018 census.

Act 1512 provided a legislative framework for theprotection of children, and children with disabilities in particular.  They benefitted from social support, medical care, and child protection.  The National Commission for the Protection and Promotion of Children was tasked with the promotion of the rights of the child and the protection of children from any harm or risk in society, school or family.  A toll-free number had been set up for children to report any grievance.  Algeria was a party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

There were no specific provisions governing theretirement age for persons with disabilities, who were covered by the law that applied to all citizens.

Concluding Remarks

GHANIA EDDALIA,Minister for National Solidarity, Family and Women of Algeria, thanked the Committee Experts for the quality and relevance of their questions, and took good note of the comments concerning the need to align the legislation with the Convention.  The implementation of the Convention was a dynamic process, she said, noting that Algeria had undertaken reforms with a view to strengthen individual liberties and the well-being of persons with disabilities.  

COOMARAVEL PYANEANDEE,Committee Rapporteur for Algeria, said that theory without practice was meaningless and that practice without theory was senseless.  Algeria should ratify the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Africa, so that there could be regional monitoring of the improvements of the situation of persons with disabilities in the country.

THERESIA DEGENER,Committee Chairperson, said that this constructive dialogue had shown, once again, the challenges that many countries encountered in implementing the Convention.  One issue that many were grappling with was the understanding of the human rights-based model of disability and its implementation in practice.

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