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Recognise legal capacity of all people with disabilities

Visit to Norway
Oslo 23/01/2015
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Recognise legal capacity of all people with disabilities

"Norway should recognise the legal capacity of all people with disabilities, including persons with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities” - said Nils Muižnieks, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, after a visit to Norway (19-23 January 2015). "As a first step, the authorities should collect data on the extent of depriving legal capacity under current legislation in view of abolishing full incapacitation and plenary guardianship. More effort is needed for the development of supported decision-making alternatives to replace substituted decision-making on behalf of people with disabilities.” The Commissioner pointed out that the right to enjoy legal capacity on an equal basis with others lied at the heart of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which Norway ratified in 2013.

The Commissioner also calls on the Norwegian authorities to improve legislation and practices regarding coercion in health care and the care of older persons. While welcoming the current strategy of the Norwegian authorities to act in this area, Nils Muižnieks highlighted the need to reduce – with a view to progressively eliminating – involuntary placements, forced treatment and the use of physical restraints in psychiatry. “The use made of coercion appears excessive and should be significantly reduced” the Commissioner stressed. "Particular attention has to be given to ensuring that highly intrusive treatments such as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) are only applied with the free and fully informed consent of the persons concerned.” Norway should also improve data collection on the use of coercion in psychiatry including the length of the measures applied.

Past assimilation policies and treatment of Taters and Romani people in Norway are now being examined by a government appointed commission of independent experts. The Commissioner commends the inclusive approach of this work and urges the government to address current discrimination against Taters and Romani people. It is also essential to improve the enjoyment of human rights by the distinct Roma community in Oslo. “There are serious concerns about Roma children’s access to education and the prevalence of child protection measures among them” said Nils Muižnieks.

The Commissioner expressed concern at the manifestations of anti-Gypsyism which have accompanied the arrival of Roma immigrants who sleep rough and beg on the streets. "The Norwegian authorities should firmly condemn all instances of racist and xenophobic speech and ensure that Roma are treated with respect by the authorities, including the police.” Nils Muižnieks pointed out that a ban on begging and homelessness was discriminatory towards Roma on grounds of ethnicity and socio-economic status. “The criminalisation of poverty hides problems from the public view and undermines efforts to improve the living conditions of Roma who are stigmatised and discriminated against.”

The Commissioner welcomed the current legislative process of reinforcing the Norwegian national institution for human rights. “It is important that the resources placed at the disposal of the national institution for human rights are commensurate with its mandate and independence.” During his visit, the Commissioner also reviewed parliamentary oversight of the intelligence sector and discussed plans for reforming the equal treatment legislation.

The Commissioner's report on his visit to Norway is forthcoming.