Prof helps develop UN treaty

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February 17, 2007

2:31 PM

Law School Professor Michael Stein — who is also a visiting professor at Harvard — played a crucial role in developing a new Human Rights Treaty, which was recently adopted by the United Nations.

p. A little over five years ago, an international ad hoc committee was formed to consider drafting new human rights protections for disabled persons. Stein has been active in this committee since its conception and continues to work with other members to increase public awareness on the issue.

p. The Treaty, titled “The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,” was adopted Dec. 13, 2006, by consensus vote in the UN General Assembly. It will take effect once it has been ratified by at least 20 countries.

p. “The Bush Administration’s position, as stated at the second ad hoc session, is that the United States will not ratify the treaty because we already have comprehensive laws on disability rights in the Americans with Disabilities Act,” Stein said.

p. The convention opens for state signatures March 30, 2007. The newly adopted Human Rights Treaty took a stand in strengthening the rights of women and children, a group that normally encounters multiple discriminations, by expressly addressing their needs in individual articles.

p. It also calls for fair accommodations during court procedures and more productive training for police, administration of justice and prison staff in communicating and interacting with people with all sorts of disabilities. Stein says implementation is the main goal. To ensure action, each country will need to form a domestic monitoring panel that will report back to the newly established UN Treaty Monitoring Body, within the first two years, and every four years following.

p. They will be required to get rid of any existing discriminatory legislation and regularly monitor implementation of the treaty, working towards eradicating these problems with the help of the state.

p. “For the first time ever, there will be space within the UN system for genuine human rights expertise to grow in the field of disability,” one of Professor Stein’s peers, Professor Gerard Quinn of the National University of Ireland, Galway, wrote in his presentation to the Irish Parliament. “As this expertise grows in authority and credibility, the other – more mainstream – human rights treaty monitoring bodies can be expected to pay much more attention to the issue.”

p. Stein specializes in American and international disability law, bioethics, employment discrimination, and legal history.

p. “Disability rights necessarily invoke civil and political rights, as well as economic, social, and cultural rights,” Stein wrote in the California Law Review, Vol. 95, 2007. “Disability framework presents a strong exemplar for viewing established human rights protections as being similarly indivisible.”

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