The rights of persons with disabilities is an important area of work for European National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), both individually and collectively through ENNHRI. Persons with disabilities must enjoy all human rights on an equal basis with others. However, they may face multiple barriers and discrimination, such as a lack of access to inclusive education, discrimination when seeking employment and being subjected to violence and abuse.

Many European NHRIs are designated to promote, protect and monitor the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). When establishing such mechanisms, States parties must take into account the UN Paris Principles. Even where NHRIs do not have this formal mandate, they make use of their broad human rights mandate to ensure that persons with disabilities can enjoy their rights in equal basis with others.

European NHRIs’ work in this area can include: making recommendations to governments and parliament for reforming legislation and policy affecting persons with disabilities, raising awareness and conducting research on the implementation of the rights of persons with disabilities, and reporting to regional and international bodies on the national implementation of the UN CRPD. Some NHRIs also regularly monitor and report on the treatment of persons with disabilities in care institutions and may investigate individual complaints.

We bring together over 30 European NHRIs through our Working Group on the Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD Working Group).

Cooperation and engagement with the European Union

In addition to all EU Member States, the EU itself is a party to the UN CRPD. In order to monitor the its implementation of the Convention, the EU has designated a Monitoring Framework currently composed of: the European Parliament, the European Ombudsman, the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights and the European Disability Forum.

The members of the EU Monitoring Framework are observers to our CRPD Working Group. They have worked alongside European NHRIs in the implementation of the UN CRPD both at the EU and national levels.

Also, we participate in the annual CRPD Work Forum on the EU’s implementation of the UN CRPD, which brings together a wide range of civil society organisations, NHRIs and EU actors.

Engagement with the Council of Europe

In 2021, we released a Statement calling on Council of Europe Member States to oppose the adoption of the Additional Protocol to the Oviedo Convention on Bioethics, affirming that the Additional Protocol could create a conflict between international standards and lead to further violation of the human rights of persons with disabilities in Europe. This followed another statement published in 2018, and a comment that we submitted to DH-BIO in 2014 on an earlier version of the draft Additional Protocol. When engaging on this topic, we also make use of our observer status before the Council of Europe’s Steering Committee for Human Rights (CDDH).

Prior to the suspension of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Experts on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, we held observer status before that body.

Download our 2021 Statement on the Draft Additional Protocol to the Oviedo Convention

CRPD Working Group

Our work in this area is facilitated through our CRPD Working Group, which brings together over 30 European NHRIs. The Working Group acts as hub of experts in this area and a platform to exchange knowledge, good practices and challenges that NHRIs face when working on the rights of persons with disabilities.

The Working Group’s activities aim to enhance NHRIs’ capacity on a variety of topics, such as legal capacity and supported decision-making, inclusive education and the need for active participation and involvement of persons with disabilities. It also coordinates engagement with regional actors at the levels of the EU and Council of Europe.

The Working Group also cooperates closely with the CRPD Working Group of the Global Alliance of NHRIs (GANHRI), as well as Equinet, the European Network of Equality Bodies.

Since 2020, following the initiative of the Georgian Public Defender’s Office, the Working Group has been issuing quarterly newsletters. These reflect both the activities of the group members, as well as international and regional news relating to the rights of persons with disabilities.

Read the Working Group’s Annual Reports to learn more about its key achievements in that year:

Ekaterine Skhiladze – Office of the Public Defender in Georgia

Current members

NHRIs of: Albania, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium (Unia), Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Kosovo*, Latvia, Luxembourg, Moldova, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Northern Ireland, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, Scotland, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Ukraine.

ENNHRI CRPD Working Group meeting (14 May 2019 - Brussels, Belgium)
ENNHRI CRPD Working Group meeting (14 May 2019 - Brussels, Belgium)
CRPD Working Group
ENNHRI CRPD Working Group meeting (14 May 2019 - Brussels, Belgium)

* This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSC 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo Declaration of Independence