Copenhagen Conference: Working groups

Right to political participation

The right to political participation is among the most fundamental of civil and political human rights. It is also one of the fundamental principles of the Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities (CRPD), which sets out the right to vote in Article 29. Participants noted that many persons with intellectual disabilities or mental health problems in the European Union (EU) are deprived of their right to political participation: some are automatically excluded from the electoral process when they lose their legal capacity; while others may be deemed unable to vote on the basis of an individual assessment.

Involuntary placement and involuntary treatment

Participants noted that the law in many EU Member States currently applies a ‘medical care’ approach to involuntary placement and involuntary treatment, noting that there is a need to bring EU Member State legislation in line with the non-discrimination principles of the CRPD.

This workshop created a space for dialogue between persons with mental health problems, medical professionals, legal practitioners, government representatives and other stakeholders.


Deinstitutionalisation has been on the political agenda at the global, European and national levels for many years. It aims to increase the personal autonomy, self-determination and inclusion in society of persons with disabilities by enabling them to choose where to live, regardless of their impairment. Despite the widespread adoption of deinstitutionalisation policies across the EU, participants said that over one million people live in institutions in the EU and neighbouring countries. This serves to reinforce the segregation of persons with disabilities and to reduce the choice and control they can exert over their daily lives. Discussants in this working group set the scene by identifying the challenges as well the progress achieved and provided examples of promising practices.

Legal capacity and supported decision-making

The right to legal capacity is a fundamental right and its enjoyment a prerequisite for enjoying other rights on an equal basis. Only if a person has full legal capacity may he or she make legally binding decisions about, for example, his or her private life, work, education, housing or political participation. Participants noted that according to Article 12 of the CRPD, States Parties must, in order to preserve the self-determination of persons with disabilities, promote self-determination and use supported decision-making rather than substituted decision-making.

Having a family

Article 23 of the CRPD requires that States Parties take effective and appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against persons with disabilities in all matters relating to marriage, family, parenthood and relationships, on an equal basis with others. In practice, the realisation of this right means different things to different people. Persons with disabilities may face difficulties in living together as a family: they may not be sufficiently supported to act as a parent; or they may have their child forcibly removed.

Bullying and harassment

Bullying, harassment and violence against persons with disabilities often remain hidden. More awareness-raising is needed to address what is both a violation of their fundamental rights and a major obstacle to promoting independent living for persons with disabilities. Harassment and violence affect children and adults with intellectual or with physical disabilities or with mental health problems. Participants noted that physical, psychological or sexual violence can happen within a family context, in institutions, during the provision of services or when taking part in daily activities, such as using a bus or walking in a park.