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This text describes the case of a Hungarian man with mental health problems.
He was not allowed to vote although his ability to make a political decision was never verified.
The European Court of Human Rights decided that this is against international law.
People with intellectual disabilities are often excluded from political participation and many are denied their right to vote. On 20 May 2010, the European Court of Human Rights made a landmark ruling on the right of people with intellectual disabilities to vote.
Hungarian man Mr. Alajos Kiss was placed under partial guardianship in May 2005 after being diagnosed with a psychiatric condition, on the basis of the Hungarian civil code. Following this, he discovered that he had been automatically deprived of his right to vote without having undertaken any assessment of his actual ability to vote. He was not permitted to take part in legislative elections in April 2006.
His complaints to the electoral office and the district court went unheeded, and in September 2006, he launched an official complaint to the European Court of Human Rights, where he claimed that the automatic deprivation of the right to vote following his placement under partial guardianship was unjustified and discriminatory.
The European Court of Human Rights ruled that the automatic disenfranchisement from voting of Mr. Kiss was against Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 to the European Convention of Human Rights. This automatic disenfranchisement also goes against other international agreements to which Hungary is bound, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was ratified, together with the Optional Protocol by Hungary in July 2007. It also undermines the Council of Europe Recommendation No. R(99)4 on ‘incapable adults’.
Following this judgment, Hungary will be obliged to reconsider the rights of people with intellectual disabilities, starting with amending its Constitution.
This judgment could potentially pave the way for change in many other countries where the political rights of people with intellectual disabilities are under threat. In Hungary alone, around 80,000 adults are denied their right to participate in political life and decision-making. This unjustified denial of the right to vote only serves to deepen prejudice towards people with intellectual disabilities and to further entrench their segregation from the rest of society.
Inclusion Europe is highly in favor of the decision of the European Court of Human Rights, and hopes that this ruling will act as a catalyst to improve the rights of people with intellectual disabilities not only in Hungary but also in other countries.
Inclusion Europe is currently undertaking a project to improve the accessibility of elections for people with intellectual disabilities. The project includes research on the accessibility of elections across Europe, the collection of best practices and the development of policy recommendations to ensure that more people with intellectual disabilities can benefit fully from their fundamental right to vote. You can find more information about the project at: www.voting-for-all.eu .