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International human rights bodies, disability and Covid-19

I have written an article in the European Human Rights Law Review on "Supranational human rights bodies and protecting the rights of people with disabilities in the COVID-19 pandemic". 

The article sets out the array of advice, guidance, policy briefs, statements, toolkits, briefings and press releases of supranational human rights bodies, and allied bodies such as the World Health Organization, in relation to the rights of people with disabilities in the COVID-19 pandemic. The analysis is presented within nine themes that recur and are of particular relevance to people with disabilities: information accessibility, physical distancing, social protection, rights in institutional settings, independent living, monitoring institutional settings, health, education and participation.

At the start of the pandemic, a group of international human rights experts called on states “to remain steadfast in maintaining a human rights-based approach to regulating this pandemic”. The article asks whether the supranational bodies themselves have remained sufficiently steadfast to a human rights-based approach in their response to the pandemic in relation to people with disabilities. The evidence leads to a conclusion that that they have not. The bodies have come adrift from human rights law and have missed opportunities to remind states of their core obligations, including under article 11 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities that sets out the protection of rights in natural disasters. 

I then go on to suggest how supranational human rights bodies can make sense of Covid-19 as a disability rights inflection point to ensure that norms are implemented beyond the crisis. I argue that international human rights bodies should ensure that speedier progress is made in implementing existing rights. Human rights bodies should return to the granular detail of human rights norms and in collaboration with people with disabilities and their representative organisations, guide states in constructing a renewed social contract wherein the “leave no-one behind” soundbite may become a reality.

If you have a Westlaw subscription, you can access the article here


human rights, disability, mental health, disability rights, united nations, council of europe