Welcome to e-include, the e-journal of Inclusion Europe.
In May, a Hungarian man's right to vote was taken away from him.
He was being looked after by a guardian.
Noone asked was he actually mentally able to vote.
Inclusion Europe conducted a survey to see was this happening in other countries.
The survey found that intellectually disabled people are still being denied their right to vote in many countries.
In May 2010, a landmark ruling was made by the European Court of Human Rights on the right to vote. Mr. Alajos Kiss, a Hungarian citizen, had been placed under partial guardianship in 2005 after having been diagnosed with a psychiatric condition. He was then deprived of his right to vote without any previous assessment of his actual ability to vote.
The European Court of Human Rights ruled that the automatic disenfranchisement of Mr. Kiss’s right to vote was against Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 to the European Convention of Human Rights and against other international agreements to which Hungary is party, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.
Following this judgement, Inclusion Europe alerted all its members which may be in a similar situation to Hungary about the case. These countries were identified through surveys on the participation of people with intellectual disabilities in elections, carried out throughout Inclusion Europe’s membership within the framework of our project ‘Accommodating Diversity through Active Participation in European elections’ (ADAP) launched in December 2009.
Inclusion Europe also asked these member organisations several questions to better understand the situation in these countries and to be able to assess the impact of the decision at European level.
Amongst the replies received from our members were those from the APEMH (Association des Parents D’Enfants Mentalement Handicapés) in Luxembourg, ZPMP v SR (Association for help to the Mentally Disabled Persons) in Slovakia and POSGKAmeA (Panhellenic Federation of Parents and Guardians of Disabled People) in Greece.
In Luxembourg, the APEMH informed us that only people under plenary guardianship are deprived of the right to vote, yet there is no specific assessment of a person’s actual capacity to make decisions about political issues in the process of placing a person under any form of guardianship. Despite the possibility of lodging an appeal within 40 days against the decision taken by the judge supervising guardianship, there is no complaints mechanism in place which could specifically challenge an automatic disenfranchisement of the right to vote. The APEMH told us that the Hungary case, very close to Luxembourgish law “strengthens us in our efforts to obtain a reform of our legislation regarding provisions related to guardianship and civil and political rights”.
In Slovakia, ZPMP v SR revealed that deprivation of legal capacity or ‘plenary guardianship’ has an automatic consequence for the right to vote in all forms of elections. Partial guardianship does not influence the right to vote, given that there is no court decision stating that the person does not have the capacity to exercise his or her right to vote.
In their experience, the courts do not deal with the right to vote on their own initiative. It is possible to make a complaint if a person’s name is not registered on the electoral role, and the person can write a legal proposal to the court regarding this. ZPMP v SR sees the Hungary case as a large contribution to their work for people with intellectual disabilities in Slovakia. They have been dealing with the issue for almost ten years and have highlighted that there is a discrepancy between the electoral law and the Slovak Constitution, however they have not had a reaction to these suggestions.
POSGKAmeA in Greece confirmed that people with intellectual disabilities under guardianship are automatically deprived of their right to vote, with no possibility to examine each case separately. Despite this, Greek citizens can address the independent Authority, the ‘Greek Ombudsman’ to make complaints and demand their rights. POSGKAmeA and the National Confederation of Disabled People in Greece (NCDP) have been pressing the government and parliament to vote for and apply national law, including the UNCRPD, as well as Protocol No. 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights. It is hoped that this will lead to changes in the Civil Code regarding provisions relating to guardianship and civil political rights, to bring it into line with modern international law.
In conclusion, it is clear that people with intellectual disabilities under guardianship are still denied the right to vote in several countries in Europe without any assessment of their actual ability to vote. We believe that the success of the Hungarian case and the persistence of our member organisations in striving to change the laws in their countries will lead to change and ensure that all citizens, including people with intellectual disabilities, can fully exercise their fundamental right to vote. As part of the ADAP project, working together with self-advocates , we will produce Policy Recommendations to politicians and national electoral authorities on how to increase accessibility to elections for people with intellectual disabilities.
To read more about the case of Mr. Alajos Kiss in Hungary, click here.
For more information about the project ‘Accommodating Diversity for Active Participation in European elections’, please go to: www.voting-for-all.eu.