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These pages apply mainly to the United Kingdom.

International Instruments: Introduction

This section deals with international declarations and treaties relevant to disability discrimination.

The main current development is the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which has now been ratified by the UK.

Further pages deal with other UN treaties on disability, and the Council of Europe. There is a separate section of this website on the European Union.

How important are treaties?

Bill of Rights and Responsibilities for People who Stutter
Not a legal document but sponsored by the International Stuttering Association (ISA) and the International Fluency Association (IFA).
Available on the ISA website
You really want to base any legal case on the Equality Act 2010 (or conceivably the Human Rights Act), rather than any of the international instruments. Even the treaties which are binding in international law normally have fairly weak enforcement mechanisms. International law is not UK law.

The major exceptions are:

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, while having rather weak enforcement mechanisms, has a high profile and may be particularly helpful before the courts where UK law is ambiguous, or with public authorities if making a complaint or campaigning for changes: see Does the Convention have teeth?

From May 2012 ministers in Wales have a particular obligation under Welsh law to have due regard to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

In general, any treaties binding on the UK in international law may be relevant in interpreting ambiguous UK law, on the basis that Parliament will not be presumed to have legislated contrary to international obligations. Also even aspects of non-binding instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights may have some legal effect through becoming part of international customary law. However, often treaties are themselves ambiguous.


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© Allan Tyrer 2001-2012
Last updated: 2nd January, 2012