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Right to vote for all disabled people must be upheld – Liz Lynne

December 21, 2011 11:00 AM

Liz Lynne Disability Discrimination ActThe denial of the right to vote for some disabled people in Europe is a scandalous breach of basic human rights, says a cross-party group of Euro MPs including Lib Dem Liz Lynne.

The MEP for the West Midlands has signed a Written Declaration in the European Parliament deploring the way in which people with disabilities are still 'generally obstructed' from voting in elections in many EU countries.

The move follows protests by Human Rights Watch and other groups after the Venice Commission (the European Commission for Democracy through Law, which advises the Council of Europe) failed to amend a code of practice to make sure disabled people always get the vote.

Liz Lynne, who is Vice-President of the European Parliament's All-Party Disability Group as well as Vice-President of the Employment and Social Affairs Committee said: "It is scandalous that after so many years the principle of universal suffrage still does not always apply to disabled people, which is a breach of the UN Convention of the Rights of People with Disabilities.

"The right to vote is the most basic building block of democracy. In some countries the issue is one of access to vote, in others the right to vote is being linked to legal capacity to take financial decisions of one form or another.

"It is very disappointing that the Venice Commission has not made clear in codes of practice that the right to vote should be truly universal.

"The voice of disabled people on this issue and the words of the UN Convention which we have signed up to are crystal clear. This has to change.

"Article 29 on the UN Convention sets out clear obligations "that persons with disabilities can effectively and fully participate in political and public life on an equal basis with others, directly or through freely chosen representatives, including the right and opportunity for persons with disabilities to vote and be elected."

"Some people are not more equal than others. The right to vote should not be decided by doctors or public authorities, a process which would be ripe for abuse.

"European countries cannot credibly tell the rest of the world to respect fundamental human rights if we continue to allow these loopholes, which are based on ignorance."


Note: The Declaration, similar to an early day motion in Westminster, needs 369 signatures to be adopted by the European Parliament.
0044/2011 Written declaration on the right to vote of people with disabilities
The European Parliament,
- having regard to Rule 123 of its Rules of Procedure,
A. whereas the EU has adopted the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,
B. whereas the Charter on Fundamental Rights states that everyone is equal before the law and that discrimination based on disability shall be prohibited,
C. whereas the Treaty lays down that every citizen has the right to participate in the democratic life of the Union,
D. whereas in a majority of EU states persons with intellectual disabilities are or may be excluded from the right to vote or be elected,
1. Deplores the way in which people with disabilities are still generally obstructed from voting in elections;
2. Regrets the recent decision of the Venice Commission to continue to support the practice in many EU states whereby the courts can strip people 'of proven mental disability' of their legal capacity;
3. Calls on all Member States to remove all legal limitations to the right of persons with disabilities to exercise their basic civic rights;
4. Instructs its President to forward this declaration, together with the names of the signatories, to the parliaments and governments of the Member States, the Commission, the Council and the Council of Europe.