U.S. Signs International Treaty On The Rights Of Persons With Disabilities

July 30, 2009 12:00 am

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Move Is Critical To Reassuming Leadership On Human Rights, Says ACLU

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NEW YORK – The United States today signed the most comprehensive international treaty on the rights of persons with disabilities in history. Susan Rice, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, signed the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) at the organization’s headquarters in New York City. If ratified by the Senate, the CRPD will be the fourth major human rights treaty ever adopted by the U.S. and the first it has adopted in the 21st century. The American Civil Liberties Union welcomes this important step by the Obama administration to reengage the U.S. in international human rights efforts.

“This is a great day for the rights of people with disabilities and a step forward for the U.S. human rights movement,” said Jamil Dakwar, Director of the ACLU Human Rights Program. “By signing the CRPD, the U.S. will reassume a leading role in the promotion and stewardship of human rights at home and abroad.”

The CRPD, signed by 140 nations since May 2008, has significant overlap with the Americans with Disabilities Act and the other U.S. laws protecting disability rights. In addition, it provides a holistic and inclusive approach to defining disability, recognizes past discrimination in addressing problems individuals with disabilities encounter in society and includes specific articles related to the rights of women and children with disabilities. Under the CRPD, ratifying countries are obligated to prevent discrimination against, promote accessibility for and work to achieve the full realization of economic, social and cultural rights for persons with disabilities.

“If adopted by the United States, the CRPD will inspire a more vigorous and comprehensive approach in the U.S. to addressing the myriad injustices still suffered by persons with disabilities,” said James Felakos, a Disability Rights Fellow with the ACLU. “We look forward to the Senate’s ratification of the CRPD.”

During his campaign, then-Senator Obama promised that he would sign the CRPD. The Bush administration chose not to sign the Convention, even after participating in the negotiating sessions that led to its drafting. Under the U.S. Constitution, after the Senate gives its advice and consent to ratification, a treaty becomes law.

The U.S. has also signed but has yet to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, two major human rights treaties that have significantly contributed to the protection and promotion of the rights of women and children worldwide.

An essay by Felakos on the CRPD is available online at: www.udhr60.org/enabling_everyone.pdf

Information about the ACLU’s work on the rights of persons with disabilities is available at: www.aclu.org/disability/index.html

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