The National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) recommended recently that the National Assembly and the Government of the Republic of Korea ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol, which were adopted by the United Nations in December 2006.
The Commission participated in the 6th, 7th and 8th international conferences to draft the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The participation allowed the Commission to communicate with other state national institutions and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to formulate an agreeable document on the international as well as domestic level. The Commission also heavily promoted the ratification of the Convention through publishing an information booklet and organizing public hearings concerning the ratification of the Convention with governmental organizations and NGOs.
The Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities consists of 50 articles, including provisions guaranteeing the rights of persons with disabilities under the principle of equality and non-discrimination. The Optional Protocol was simultaneously adopted with the Convention, and is comprised of 18 articles concerning provisions on ‘Individual Communication’ and the inquiry function of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (the Committee). ‘Individual Communication’ is a system instituted for individuals with disabilities suffering human rights abuses to seek relief through the Committee when it is impossible to obtain relief under domestic law.
This Convention will serve as a standard for policy-making regarding persons with disabilities and contribute to substantive improvement of human rights. Additionally, the Convention focuses on promoting the human rights of people with disabilities from a holistic viewpoint, including the state’s obligation to ensuring social rights of persons with disabilities, which is not included in the ‘Anti-Discrimination against and Remedies for Persons with Disabilities Act’.
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is consistent with, and specifically embodies, the right to pursue happiness, the principle of equality, and the state’s obligation to promote the welfare of persons with disabilities as provided in Articles 10, 11, and 34 of the Constitution of the Republic of Korea respectively. When ratified, the Convention holds equal leverage with domestic law.
Investigations conducted via the National Human Rights Commission of Korea have produced changes in domestic law relevant to persons with disabilities through investigation and provision of rectification measures in appropriate cases. Some of these cases resulted in recommendations to the South Korean government and other institutional organs to offer proper accommodations to persons with disabilities, such as exams printed in Braille and accessible elevators. Persons with disabilities in South Korea have seen the benefits of these efforts through improved social rights and environments, and will continue to see further improvements with the Commission’s current initiative to see the ‘Anti-Discrimination against and Remedies for Persons with Disabilities Act’ enacted in national legislation.
The ‘Individual Communication’ and inquiry function of the Committee set forth in the Optional Protocol aim to safeguard the rights guaranteed by the Convention. By legislating the ‘Anti-Discrimination against and Remedies for Persons with Disabilities Act’, the Republic of Korea has already guaranteed many rights protected in the Convention. Even still, the ‘Individual Communication’ will guarantee Korean persons with disabilities a chance to seek relief through consideration by the UN Disability Rights Committee in cases where infringement on their rights as guaranteed by the Convention is not effectively rectified by the domestic remedial procedures. As Korea has been rationalizing the legal and institutional mechanisms pertaining to the ‘Anti-Discrimination against and Remedies for Persons with Disabilities Act’, it seems that there will be little or no conflicts accessing this Optional Protocol.
The ‘Anti-Discrimination against and Remedies for Persons with Disabilities Act’, promulgated on April 10, 2007, bans discrimination and affirms human rights, dignity and other rights of persons with disabilities. Nearly all of the provisions in this act concerning prohibition of discrimination or the right to freedom overlap with or dovetail those in the Convention, suggesting little or no conflict between the Convention and domestic laws in Korea.
Given the role played by the Republic of Korea in drafting the Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Commission and members of the international community believe it is imperative that the Convention is ratified and its Optional Protocols signed in order to protect and promote the human rights of persons with disabilities not only in South Korea, but in the entire international community.
The National Human Rights Commission of Korea was established in 2001, offering investigation and remedy services for Korean citizens and foreigners residing in Korea against human rights violations and discrimination. The Commission provides policy recommendations and remedial action against human rights infringements, collaborates with international human rights organizations and implements educational programs to improve the human rights culture.
* Attached : NHRCK Decision to Recommend the Republic of Korea Ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol