Disability conference

Report of Suzanne Valentine:

You asked me to report back on the conference I attended in Istanbul. The International Conference on Disability Rights (Access to Justice for Persons with Disabilities) was held in Istanbul 15-16 December 2018 and, besides homegrown delegates, attracted human rights lawyers from Italy, Croatia and Malta, and, of course, the UK, among others. I, as you know, represented the group (a credit to SIHRG will be made in an anthology of the presentations, to be translated into Turkish which I will share once I have a copy).

I chose to speak about the incompatibility of the UN Convention on Rights of Disabled Persons and UK domestic law, namely the Mental Capacity Act 2005. Of particular interest to me is that fact that, once an individual is the subject of a power of attorney, they are deemed, under the Act, to lack the capacity to divorce someone as this is a personal right that their representatives may not invoke on their behalf, unlike property rights. This is the case even where an estranged spouse returns after a long period away from the family home to claim a share of the assets from a dementia patient, even where they've made no contribution to the expenses during that period away (based on a case that came to my attention during a legal clinic) or where the spouse has found another partner, either because of or in spite of the dementia patient's condition. This appears to be at odds with Article 12(2) of Convention under which persons with disabilities are expected (and specifically capacity) are expected to enjoy the same access to legal rights as other members of society.

The speech went well, I believe, and was well received by the other attendees. Of course, the topical B-word Brexit cropped up regularly in conversation. Ironically, we and Turkey are two bookends. The EU is thwarting our efforts to leave the club while it has been continually moving the goal posts for Turkey's membership attempts. One positive outflow of the latter is that it has made Turkey more amenable (the post-coup incarcerations aside) to making changes to its human rights and equality agenda to pacify the EU with examples of abolishing the death penalty and more recently adoption of the Convention to which I referred and which was a common theme throughout the conference

Suzanne Valentine