Today, 30th of March 2021, a High-Level Conference on “Protecting Vulnerable Adults across Europe – the way forward” is taking place online co-organised by the Ministry of Justice, the European Commission and the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA).
The event will discuss the rights of persons with disabilities in cross-border situations, and in criminal proceedings. No organisations of persons with disabilities have been invited to speak at this event, so the meaningful participation of persons with disabilities through their organisations is missing from the discussion.
This is even more concerning as one session of the event will address the Hague Convention on the International Protection of Adults of 13 January 2000 that is referred to in the 2021-2030 EU Strategy on the rights of the Persons with Disabilities. In 2018 the European Disability Forum expressed orally and in written concerns about the ratification and implementation of the 2000 Hague Convention by EU member States during a European Commission-HCCH Joint Conference on the Cross-border Protection of Vulnerable Adults in Brussels.
The text of the 2000 Hague Convention is in contradiction with the CRPD. It covers recognition of measures of “protection” such as guardianship and curatorship in cross border situations (for example when one person from one EU member state is travelling or moving to another EU member state). In addition, the explanatory report dated of 2018 explicitly confirms that the placement of an adult in a care institution and the enforcement of a placement and treatment measures (for example in psychiatry), including involuntary, fall within the scope of the Convention (see paras. 40, 45, 84 of the explanatory report).
The Convention could, theoretically, advance disability rights in cross border situations if implemented by EU Member States in compliance with the CRPD (by promoting supported decision making for instance). However, it is imperative that the compliance between the CRPD and the Hague Convention is discussed in detail to prevent it being used for mutual recognition of measures which are contradictory to the CRPD. The current lack of supported decision-making mechanisms and authorisation of involuntary treatment and placement in psychiatry under the mental health laws of EU member states does not currently allow for an implementation of the 2000 Hague Convention in line with the CRPD.
We call on the European Commission and the Council to consult and involve representative organisations of persons with disabilities on all discussion on this topic so that all measures taken advance the rights of persons with disabilities including in cross-border situations.