Press Release - 647(2009)

“The stigmatising of persons with intellectual disabilities is a neglected human rights crisis” says Commissioner Hammarberg

Strasbourg, 14.09.2009 – “Decision makers should fight harder against the marginalisation and stigmatisation of people with intellectual disabilities and ensure their participation and integration into society” said Thomas Hammarberg, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, in his latest Viewpoint published today.

“Persons with intellectual disabilities are rarely consulted or even listened to and a great number of them continue to be kept in old-style, inhuman institutions. Conditions in some of the “social care homes” are appalling in many countries. In these segregated institutions very little, if any, rehabilitation is provided. Not infrequently, persons with intellectual disabilities are placed together with persons having psychiatric problems and unnecessarily given sedatives against their will. They are in some cases deprived of their liberty and treated as if they were dangerous.”

Another major problem is that families with members having intellectual disabilities are often left on their own, in spite of their important role as care givers and as people who can understand and communicate with the person with intellectual disabilities. “A sad consequence in some cases is that parents and other family members just cannot cope, and that the individual with a disability will be seen as nothing but a burden.”

Highlighting positive steps undertaken in certain countries, such as Albania, Serbia and “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, Commissioner Hammarberg stresses the need for more efforts to adopt adequate services at the local level, in particular in the field of education, health care, family life and assistance to children. He further underlines the existence of relevant international norms and urges Council of Europe member States to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and respond constructively to its Action Plan 2006-2015.

“It is urgent to move from word to action and to ensure that effective steps are indeed taken. The UN Convention requires states to set up a mechanism to coordinate government action, establish an effective system of independent monitoring and invite civil society – and in particular persons with disabilities themselves and their organisations – to take part in the monitoring. Such measures would help address the stigmatisation and marginalisation of persons with intellectual disabilities and encourage instead their participation and integration into society to the maximum extent possible. This change would make our societies more humane.”

Published fortnightly in English, French and Russian, Viewpoints can be used without prior consent, provided that the text is not modified and the original source is indicated in the following way: “Also available at the Commissioner’s website at www.commissioner.coe.int”.

Press contacts in the Commissioner’s Office:

Stefano Montanari, +33 (0)6 61 14 70 37; stefano.montanari@coe.int

Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights
Communication Unit
Tel: +33 (0)3 88 41 35 38
Fax:+33 (0)3 90 21 50 53

www.commissioner.coe.int
press.commissioner@coe.int



 Top