Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) oversees implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities through its consideration of State reports, individual complaints, early-awareness and urgent actions, and inquiry requests, and its preparation of general comments and general discussion days. As of January 2020, 181 States are party to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (“the Convention”).
- WORKING METHODS
- CIVIL SOCIETY PARTICIPATION
- RESEARCH AND ADDITIONAL SOURCES
The CRPD consists of 18 independent experts who are elected for a term of four years by States parties to the Convention. See Convention, art. 34. Each member must be a national of a State party to the Convention, of high moral character, and have recognized competence in the field of international human rights. See id. Further information about the election process is found on the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ webpage on Elections of Treaty Body Members.
The CRPD generally holds sessions two times per year in Geneva, Switzerland. The schedule of past and upcoming CRPD sessions is available online, and the OHCHR maintains a Master Calendar of all UN Member States’ upcoming treaty body reviews.
States parties are required to submit an initial report within two years after acceding to the Convention. State parties to the Convention are then required to submit regular periodic reports on how rights are being implemented every 4 years.
The reporting system requires each State party to submit (1) a common core document, which lists general information about the reporting State, a framework for protecting human rights, and information on non-discrimination and equality, and (2) a treaty-specific document, which accounts for specific information relating to the implementation of the Convention and any national law or policies adopted to implement its provisions. See CRPD, Guidelines on Treaty-Specific Document to be Submitted by States Parties under Article 35, paragraph 1, of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, CRPD/C/2/3, 18 November 2009. For more information on the form and content of reports, see the UN Secretary General’s Compilation of Guidelines on the Form and Content of Reports to be Submitted by States Parties to the International Human Rights Treaties, UN Doc. HRI/GEN/2/Rev.6, 3 June 2009.
Once the State has submitted its report, the CRPD formulates a list of issues for the State party to respond to prior to its session. At the session, the CRPD engages in a constructive dialogue with the State party. Following the constructive dialogue, the CRPD issues recommendations in the form of concluding observations, which include positive aspects, factors and difficulties that impede the implementation of the Convention, principal topics of concern, and any suggestions and recommendations. The CRPD will also identify recommendations for follow-up and appoint a Committee member as a rapporteur for the follow-up. See Other Activities of the Human Rights Treaty Bodies and Participation of Stakeholders in the Human Rights Treaty Body Process, UN Doc. HRI/MC/2013/3, 22 April 2013, para. 7.
Throughout this process, one or two members of the CRPD serve as country rapporteurs and are responsible for conducting the State party’s review and facilitating the process of developing the list of issues and drafting concluding observations. See CRPD, Working Methods of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities adopted at its Fifth Session (11-15 April 2011), UN Doc. CRPD/C/5/4, 2 September 2011, paras. 10-11.
The CRPD also adopted a simplified reporting procedure at its 10th Session in September 2013, aimed at providing the Committee with more targeted periodic reports. Prior to each State’s submission of its periodic report, the CRPD will instead adopt a list of issues to be transmitted to States parties. The State’s replies will then constitute its report. The procedure helps to provide the CRPD with more specific information and reduces the need to request supplementary information before hosting the constructive dialogue with the State party at the Committee’s session. For more information about the simplified reporting procedure, see the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights’ report on strengthening the human rights treaty bodies, United Nations reform: measures and proposals, UN Doc. A/66/860, 26 June 2012.
The CRPD may consider individual complaints that allege a violation of an individual’s rights under the Convention if the State has ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. As of January 2020, 96 States are party to the Optional Protocol.
The CRPD will first make a decision on the admissibility of the individual complaint based on the criteria set forth in Article 2 of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. If the complaint is admissible, the CRPD will then issue a decision on the merits in which it indicates whether or not the State is responsible for violating the Convention. Please see the CRPD’s Fact sheet on the procedure for submitting communications to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities under the Optional Protocol to the Convention for further instructions.
Articles 1 and 2 of the Optional Protocol detail the requirements for complaints. The CRPD has also issued guidelines for individual complainants. See CRPD, Revised Guidelines for the Submission of Communications to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities under the Optional Protocol to the Convention adopted by the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, UN Doc. CRPD/C/5/3/Rev.1, 5 June 2012. The guidelines specify the information that complainants should supply with regard to: (1) the author and victim’s identifying information, (2) the State party in which the complaint is directed against, (3) the subject matter of the communication, (4) the rights set out in the Convention that have been alleged to be violated, (5) any steps taken to exhaust domestic remedies, (6) whether any communications are being lodged with other international bodies, and (6) potential remedies that are being submitted to the Committee for consideration. All individual complaints should be submitted to the Petitions Team mailing address:
Petitions and Inquiries Section
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
United Nations Office at Geneva
1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
or to the following email addresses: email@example.com, TBfirstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, and firstname.lastname@example.org.
The CRPD maintains a table of jurisprudence, which documents its recent decisions by Convention article, the subject matter, any procedural issues, and outcome. The Committee also keeps a full list of its jurisprudence.
More information for the procedure on individual complaints can be found in the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights publications, 23 Frequently Asked Questions about Treaty Body Complaints Procedure and its webpage detailing the Procedure for Complaints by Individuals under the Human Rights Treaties.
The CRPD does not have a mechanism in place for inter-State complaints.
The CRPD has a special procedure in place to handle early-awareness and urgent action procedures aimed at preventing the significant expansion or re-emergence of human rights problems. These procedures can also be utilized to address issues requiring immediate attention in order to avoid or limit serious violations. See CRPD, Working methods of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities adopted at its fifth session (11-15 April 2011), UN Doc. CRPD/C/5/4, 2 September 2011, para. 26. Individuals or NGOs can ask the Committee to use these measures by submitting a written request along with supporting information. Information can be e-mailed to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Complaints of Systematic Violations (Inquiry Procedures)
The CRPD is also authorized to undertake inquiries regarding alleged grave or systematic violations of any of the rights set forth in the Convention by any State party to the Optional Protocol. See Optional Protocol, art. 6. States parties may opt out of the inquiry procedure at the time of signature, ratification of or accession to the Optional Protocol, however. See id. art. 8.
The inquiry procedure is confidential and the State party’s cooperation is sought at all stages. Generally, the inquiry procedure proceeds in five steps.
- The CRPD receives information that the rights contained in the Convention are being systematically violated by the State party.
- The CRPD invites the State party to submit relevant observations.
- Based on the relevant submissions and observations, the Committee may then designate one or more of its members to conduct an inquiry and then submit an urgent report to the CRPD. With the State party’s consent, the initial inquiry may involve a visit to the State’s territory.
- The CRPD examines the report and then transmits any findings, along with comments and recommendations to the State party.
- The State party is then requested to submit its own observations and any measures it took regarding the CRPD’s findings, comments, and recommendations within a specified time period.
The CRPD issues general comments regarding specific articles, themes, or general issues related to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The CRPD publishes pending and final general comments on its webpage.
Open Letters and Statements
The CRPD will periodically issue substantive statements to comment on important events or issues relevant to the Convention.
Thematic Discussions and Conferences
The CRPD holds general discussion days in which to analyze and receive input on specific provisions of the Convention and related issues. Previous topics of discussion have included the right to accessibility, the right to equal recognition before the law, and specific topics relating to women and girls with disabilities. Following a general discussion day, the CRPD will adopt recommendations for enhanced understanding or implementation of the Convention. These discussion days are open to representatives of States parties, UN agencies, NGOs, national human rights institutions, and all interested stakeholders.
CIVIL SOCIETY PARTICIPATION
NGOs and other civil society groups do not require ECOSOC consultative status to engage with the CRPD. Furthermore, any group may submit information to the CRPD or prepare an individual complaint or request for urgent action on behalf of a victim. Certain requirements, including prior registration, regulate civil society organizations’ participation in-person in the Committee’s sessions, however.
The CRPD invites NGOs and other civil society stakeholders to participate in the process of monitoring States’ implementation of the Convention and to help facilitate the work of the Committee. For example, NGOs are invited to comment on initial drafts for general comments by writing to email@example.com. NGOs are also invited to contribute in an active manner in the reporting process of States parties and submit written information at least two months prior to relevant sessions of the Convention. Submissions should: (1) provide the full name of the organization, (2) identify the State party to which the information relates, (3) indicate whether the submission should be kept confidential or can be posted, and (4) be submitted in English, French, or Spanish (although English is preferable as the Committee’s working language). Such reports should be submitted electronically in both PDF and Word document formats to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Based on submissions by NGOs and other civil society stakeholders, the CRPD will also invite certain NGOs to make oral presentations during its review of States parties’ reports. NGOs can also request a private meeting with the CRPD, and the Chair of the CRPD will decide whether to accede to such a request. NGOs are also allowed to organize side events during the CRPD’s sessions to provide additional information to Committee members by sending a note to the CRPD Secretariat at email@example.com, indicating the organizations they represent, the day and time of the event, and the number of speakers who will participate.
NGOs and other civil society stakeholders may also attend public meetings of the CRPD as observers, in which case they will not be given the opportunity to address the CRPD.
If an NGO or other civil society stakeholder wishes to attend a Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’ session, the organization is required to be duly registered. Participants will have to create an account and register through the United Nations Indico system.
More information can be found in the CRPD’s page on Participation and Guidelines, and in the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ Information Note on Accreditation to attend sessions of Treaty Bodies.
RESEARCH AND ADDITIONAL SOURCES
The Committee’s outputs can be found on its website and are linked to in the relevant sections above. The UN Treaty Body Database also collects these documents, which may be searched by several criteria, but not by keyword or subject matter. For additional research tools, view the Research Aids section of this Online Resource Hub.
The Committee has also disseminated information about its working methods. See CRPD, Working Methods of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities adopted at its Fifth Session (11-15 April 2011), UN Doc. CRPD/C/5/4, 2 September 2011.
Another useful resource is the International Service for Human Rights’ Simple Guide to UN Treaty Bodies (2010), which examines each treaty bodies’ reports, individual communications, State-to-State complaints, inquiry procedures, urgent interventions, general comments, and how NGOs can engage with treaty bodies.
The International Disability Alliance is an organization that promotes the effective implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and advocates for the rights of persons with disabilities throughout the UN system.