Article 29 of the CRPD sets out the framework for persons with disabilities’ participation in political and public life and stipulates that state parties shall “guarantee to persons with disabilities political rights and the opportunity to enjoy them on equal basis with others.” To achieve this, state parties should: ensure that voting procedures, facilities and materials are appropriate and easy to use for persons with disabilities; and protect the rights of persons with disabilities to vote by secret ballot, stand for elections and hold office as an elected representative.
Furthermore, under Article 29 state parties have the duty to promote an environment in which persons with disabilities can participate in the conduct of public affairs on an equal basis with others, including through the activities of non-governmental organisations, and forming and joining organisations of persons with disabilities. This indicator looks at whether EU Member States have accepted (typicall ratified) the CRPD without a reservation or declaration to Article 29 on participation in political and public life. Ratification (or equivalent actions) is the legal act that a State makes to show that it will abide by and implement the legal obligations set out in the treaty. Upon ratification, a State can enter a ‘reservation’ to one or more articles of the treaty. The implication of a reservation is to limit or qualify the obligation to implement that particular provision.
Have EU Member States ratified the CRPD without a reservation to Article 29?
Sources: FRA, 2014; United Nations Treaty Collection
All European Union Member States except Finland, Ireland and the Netherlands have ratified the CRPD. These three have so far only signed the convention, which is an expression of the intention to ratify and prevents them from acting contrary to the treaty until they have ratified it.
Malta is the only EU Member State that has made a reservation to Article 29 of the CPRD upon ratification of the CRPD, although the declarations to Article 12 are also relevant to Article 29. In addition, no EU Member State has made a declaration to Article 29. Malta’s reservation states that with regard to Article 29 (a) (i) it “reserves the right to continue to apply its current electoral legislation in so far as voting procedures, facilities and materials are concerned” and that with regard to Article 29 (a) (iii) it “reserves the right to continue to apply its current electoral legislation in so far as assistance in voting procedures is concerned.” This reservation is tied to the provisions in place for persons with disabilities who may require assistance to vote. The current system provides for such voters to vote in front of the assistant commissioners present in their polling booth.
In its concluding observations to state parties regarding the implementation of Article 29, the CRPD Committee has emphasised two key issues: the need to ensure participation in political life for all persons, irrespective of the type of impairment or legal status, and the unacceptability of restrictions on the right to vote of persons with intellectual and psycho-social disabilities. It also underlined the importance of accessibility and reasonable accommodation, stating that voting must be “fully accessible to all persons, irrespective of disability, and that voting information is provided in all accessible formats” and that elected officials with disabilities should be “provided with all required support, including personal assistants.”