The rights of persons with disabilities

The Parliamentary Ombudsman together with the Human Rights Centre and its Human Rights Delegation serve as an independent national mechanism tasked to promote, protect and monitor the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (Article 33(2) CRDP). A provision on this new task is contained in the Parliamentary Ombudsman Act (section 19f). This is the first statutory duty assigned jointly to Finland’s National Human Rights Institution. Finland ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol on 11 May 2016, and they entered into force in Finland on 10 June 2016.

Under Article 33(3) of CRPD, persons with disabilities and their representative organizations shall be involved and participate fully in the monitoring process of CRPD implementation. For this purpose, a permanent Sub-Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was set up under the Human Rights Delegation at the Human Rights Centre.

The Parliamentary Ombudsman protects, promotes and monitors CRPD implementation within the limits of his or her specific competence. The Ombudsman’s tasks include overseeing legality in the exercise of public authority and supervising (protecting) the implementation of fundamental and human rights. The Parliamentary Ombudsman also works to promote the realisation of fundamental and human rights. For the main part, the Parliamentary Ombudsman exercises oversight of legality through investigating complaints, carrying out own-initiative investigations and conducting inspection visits.

The Ombudsman serves as the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) under the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture (OPCAT). When performing this task, the Ombudsman may rely on the assistance of experts appointed by him, including persons with disabilities, who have expertise significant for the NPM mandate.

The duties of the Human Rights Centre include promoting and monitoring fundamental and human rights, among other things by preparing reports and studies aiming to promote and realise these rights. Rather than being limited to the activities of the authorities, the Human Rights Centre’s competence also extends to promoting and monitoring human rights in the activities of private stakeholders.

UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

The purpose of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity. The leading principles of the CRPD are accessibility and the prohibition of all discrimination. The CRDP stresses the right of persons with disabilities to be involved in preparing and making decisions on issues that concern them.

The CRDP contains a definition of persons with disabilities, in which the relationship between the person’s functional capacity and his or her environment is the key. The depiction of disability is based on the person’s relationship with society around him/ her, not a definition based on a medical diagnosis.

Such as the following problems have repeatedly come to the Ombudsman’s knowledge in the context of realising the rights of persons with disabilities:

  • problems related to restricting fundamental rights in special care for persons with intellectual disabilities
  • shortcomings in the preparation of service plans and special care programmes
  • application practices of disability services are inconsistent, and the instructions issued may prevent customers from accessing statutory services
  • delays and procedural errors in decision-making and other processes
  • shortcomings in the accessibility of premises and services and the implementation of accomodation.