Petitions and complaints give individuals, including people with disabilities, the tools to claim their rights. In doing so, they help make rights a reality, said FRA in its speech to a public hearing organised by the European Parliament's Petitions Committee on 'Protection of the rights of people with disabilities, from the perspective of petitions received' on 15 October 2015 in Brussels, Belgium.
FRA spoke about how access to justice through petitions and complaints enables and empowers individuals. It ensures the meaningful enforcement of rights and lies at the core of what it means to turn standards and principles from words on a page to real life benefits for people in their daily lives. However, there are a number of obstacles to accessing justice which can be especially acute for people with disabilities. Lack of rights awareness, lack of knowledge of where and how to complain and inaccessible, lengthy and expensive procedures can all lead to widespread under-reporting of rights violations. As a result, the complaints and petitions received are probably just the tip of the iceberg.
FRA highlighted the importance of research and evidence-based advice in addressing these challenges. Research conducted by FRA and others can identify the obstacles that individuals face when looking for redress and point to how they can be overcome. It can also aid complaints bodies such as the Petitions Committee, the European Ombudsman or national human rights bodies, which often need more extensive and comprehensive data to support their decisions.
FRA also underlined the need for comprehensive awareness-raising and outreach activities to make people more aware of their rights and give them the information they need to seek redress. FRA’s online Clarity tool, which points people to the appropriate national non-judicial complaints body, was mentioned as an example.
In closing, FRA restated its commitment to follow up on the recent recommendations from the UN on the EU’s implementation of the CRPD through evidence-based advice, training and awareness raising.