“No one should be deprived of their right to vote because of their disabilities. Persons with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities are no exception”, said today Dunja Mijatović, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, while publishing her written observations submitted to the European Court of Human Rights on a case concerning a person with intellectual disabilities whose right to vote had been withdrawn by a court in Spain.
The Commissioner’s observations are based on the work of the Commissioner’s Office on the right to vote of persons with disabilities and an overview of Council of Europe and international standards regarding this issue, starting with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Commissioner stresses that depriving persons of the right to vote on the basis of disability, including following an assessment made by a judge of the person’s cognitive capacity or mental health status, is contrary to these standards. It is also not compatible with any legitimate aim and amounts to discrimination: “In a modern democracy no one needs to justify why they vote for a particular party or candidate. Contrary to received beliefs, stripping a person of their right to vote protects neither the person nor the society. On the contrary, it perpetuates exclusion and stigma, and deprives the society from a legislature which represents its full diversity.”
The Commissioner also points to a number of positive obligations states need to fulfil to make the right to vote effective for persons with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities. In addition to general accessibility measures and reasonable accommodation, this must also include, where necessary, assistance and support to the person to understand the stakes in an election, to make a choice and to vote. “States have a role to play in preventing conflicts of interest in the provision of such support, but they must not encroach on the core of the right to vote.”
Third party interventions represent an additional tool at the Commissioner’s disposal to help promote and protect human rights. They are foreseen by the European Convention on Human Rights and are based on the Commissioner’s country and thematic activities.