The 12 weeks are over! We’ve finished this particular campaign for equality before the law for people with disabilities. It feels like time flew by. But in reality, a lot of hard work went on behind the scenes to produce resources and run events. In this last post we would like to thank the thousands of people who supported us in our efforts and to offer you all a list of our top-12 highlights from the 12 weeks of campaigning (in no particular order).
12. Showcasing good practices from around the world
We heard from activists and reformers throughout the world who were developing new strategies for ensuring equal recognition before the law for all. Whether it was mental health innovations such as family group conferencing or the Swedish PO Skane model, or the unique advocacy of an organisation in the Czech Republic (all of which were among our most-visited posts), we wanted to draw attention to innovative practices throughout the world.
11. Launching a Turkish online resource for legal capacity reform
This website includes resources including law reform strategies, information about common rights violations of equal recognition before the law for people with disabilities in Turkey, and links to various civil society organisations campaigning on this issue. It was a huge effort, undertaken by our colleagues at RUSİHAK, and looks set to help tens of thousands of Turkish people who have their legal capacity restricted or denied all together.
10. Running for the Right To Act in Kosovo
The weather looked perfect in Pristina. The mini-marathon, which was organized by the Kosovo Autism Organization, was meant to provide a chance to mix the fun of sport with the call for social justice for people with Autism. And there among the crowds were our partners at the Institute for Sustainability and Development of Youth, spreading the word about the Right to Act. ISDY attended the run in solidarity with other NGOs focusing on human rights and disability justice. ISDY’s own staff members, Linda Simitciu, Erolina Morina and Nexhat Halimi took part in the marathon and ran the entire thing!
9. These Photos…
Need we say more…
8. Global support
It was an international effort. Contributions came from all over the world. We heard from allies in Kenya, the USA, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, and of course, from the EU-PERSON partner organisations across the Balkans and Turkey. These partner organisations – SUMERO, RUSIHAK, ISDY, ADRF, MDRI-S – deserve our special thanks.
7. Real life stories
The post “My Life as a ‘Legal Non-Person’ – Civil Death in Sarajevo” was one of our most visited blogposts of the entire campaign. (Big thanks to SUMERO for their support in translating A.D’s story). A.D’s account of his own experience of being denied personhood and then later, experiencing support to self-direct his life, demonstrates the power of human stories. His account shows us why seemingly technical changes to law can have a major impact on the lives of millions of individuals worldwide who are denied the right to make decisions about their own lives.
The newest partner to the EU-PERSON group, Albanian Disability Rights Foundation, was successful not only in drawing attention to historic developments in Albania, but were also able to secure support from key public officials. Irma Baraku, Commissioner for Protection from Discrimination in Albania, declared the following as she signed the Right to Act Declaration.
“People with disabilities have the same rights as other persons. Any support, representation or assistance in decision-making cannot overcome his will.”
5. Overcoming language barriers to promote the right to act for all
One issue we faced was in translating the language of disability rights. We managed to produce declarations on the right to act in four different languages: English, Serbian, Albanian and Turkish. We also prepared the declaration in easy-to-read English.
Council of Europe Commissioner for human rights, Mr Nils Muižnieks, visited Serbia from 16 to 20 March 2015 and spoke with civil society organizations, independent institutions and decision-makers. The Commissioner said, “Serbia needs to take immediate steps to address serious issues relating to the right to legal capacity of persons with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities and their deinstitutionalization in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities by which Serbia is bound.”
3. ‘Support’ from the writers of Game of Thrones
Our campaign coincided with the airing of the fifth season of the Game of Thrones, which happens to be currently the most downloaded TV series of all time. We spotted a reference to the themes of the Right to Act, particularly around the issues of the right to make decisions that are risky, and may even be mistakes.
On a more serious note, the 26th June was International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. We were reminded that freedom from torture is absolute under the international law and it cannot be justified under any circumstances. This blogpost, from MDRI-S advocate, Biljana Janjic, highlighted that legal capacity deprivations greatly increase the likelihood of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
1. And finally, our greatest highlight of all… your support!
We received thousands of visitors to our campaign blog. We received over a thousand signatures for the declaration, and gained thousands of retweets, hashtag posts and ‘likes’ on social media. We want to end by thanking all our supporters over the past 12 weeks. We hope our resources can help people all over the world seek law reform in the area of equal recognition before the law for people with disabilities.
And so what next? EU-PERSON will leave the blog as it is, so that the many resources can be used by activists, law reformers, policy-makers and practitioners all over the world. We will stay active on our facebook page and twitter. So please follow us there to keep up with EU-PERSON activities. If you wish to contact any of us who were involved we would encourage you to contact the individual organisations listed on the EU-PERSON website.
Thank you again and we wish to extend to you our solidarity in the quest for full disability justice throughout the world.
This document has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union. The contents of this document are the sole responsibility of PERSON (Partnership to Ensure Reforms of Supports in Other Nations). and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union.