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Access to justice for persons with disabilities: Commissioner Hammarberg intervenes before the Strasbourg Court

Strasbourg, 18/10/11 – "Persons with disabilities are all too often denied access to justice on an equal basis with others", said the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, submitting written observations to the European Court of Human Rights on a case concerning the treatment of a person with disability in Romania.

The case has been lodged by the Centre for Legal Resources on behalf of Valentin Câmpeanu, a young man of Roma ethnic origin, suffering from a severe learning disability and infected with the HIV virus, who died at the age of 18 at the Poiana Mare Psychiatric Hospital, after having spent his all life in institutions.

So far the Court has never had the opportunity to examine a case concerning a person who died before the submission of an application, in the absence of any heir or close relative and with no legal representative. "There is an atmosphere of impunity surrounding abuses committed against people with disabilities. A strict application of standing requirements to these persons would have the undesired effect of depriving a particularly vulnerable group of people of any reasonable prospect of seeking and obtaining redress for violations of their human rights. It would also run counter to the objective of preventing the occurrence or recurrence of human rights violations by the States parties to the European Convention on Human Rights."

The Commissioner therefore considers that in exceptional circumstances, NGOs should be allowed to lodge applications with the Court on behalf of victims, even in the absence of specific authorisation. "The important role of NGOs in shedding light on human rights violations experienced by vulnerable persons and in facilitating their access to justice must be officially recognised. This would be fully in line with the principle of effectiveness in which the Convention is grounded."

This third party intervention by the Commissioner is the first submitted on his own initiative since the entry into force of Protocol n° 14 to the Convention on 1 June 2010.

Read the Third party intervention by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights under Article 36, paragraph 3, of the European Convention on Human Rights (Application No. 47848/08 - The Centre for Legal Resources on behalf of Valentin Câmpeanu v. Romania)