The right to live independently and be included in the community

Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities sets out the right for everyone with disabilities – including those with mental health issues and intellectual disabilities – to live and be included in the community. In April 2016 the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities began its work to develop a General Comment on this Article.  

Events and conferences

Event at the UN on 19 April 2016 – “Follow the money! Financing and independent living”

MDAC co-organised this event with Inclusion International and two academic institutions. The invitation is here and transcript can be downloaded in Word here.

Event at the UN on 6 April 2016 – “Independent living and inclusive communities for persons with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities: solutions and challenges from Europe and Africa”

With Human Rights Watch, Mental Disability Rights Initiative of Serbia, Mental Health Uganda and Forum for Human Rights, MDAC co-organised this event, chaired by the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, Ms. Catalina Devandas Aguilar. The event invitation is here. The speakers’ presentations are here


Mental Disability Advocacy Centre

Response to the European Ombudsperson in relation to the own-initiative inquiry on respect for fundamental rights in the implementation of the EU cohesion policy, 2015

Responding to questions posed by the European Ombudsperson, this report entails detailed answers regarding the use and control of European Structural and Investment Funds (ESI Funds). It outlines that such Funds are being put towards financing institutions particularly for people with disabilities, in violation of Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which guarantees independent and inclusive living in the community for all. This report urges the European Ombudsperson to address all aspects of the misuse of ESI Funds – and to listen to the voices of victims of the institutional system.    

Study on Human Rights of Persons with Mental or Intellectual Disabilities in the Republic of Moldova, 2015

This report looks to explain the requirements of three rights set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which Moldova ratified in 2010, namely the right to legal capacity (Article 12), right to live independently and be included in the community (Article 19), and the right to inclusive education (Article 24). It also analyses to what extent Moldovan law aligns with these rights and proposes recommendations to make national law fully consistent with the CRPD.

Human Rights and Mental Health in Zambia, 2014

This report documents a number of serious human rights violations inside five psychiatric hospitals, five traditional healing clinics, and a mental health "settlement" following three independent monitoring visits, drawing upon real life testimonies from victims of these regimes. It aims to serve as a catalyst for establishing community-based services for people with disabilities in Zambia.

My Home, My Choice – in Bulgariathe Czech Republic and Hungary, 2014

MDAC developed an indicator set and then researched the reality through using the indicators. These reports provide information on the implementation of Article 19 in three countries. They provide governments with evidence of the gap between the rhetoric and the reality for thousands of people with mental disabilities in those three countries, and contain recommendations to governments.

"They don’t consider me as a person” – Mental health and human rights in Ugandan communities, 2014

This report documents the human rights abuses that people with mental health issues experience in Ugandan communities, told in their own voices. It is the first time that such an investigation has ever been undertaken in the country, and uncovers widespread discrimination, violence, abuse and neglect against a section of the population that often goes unheard. Whilst uncovering the abhorrent conditions in psychiatric hospitals, the report, among other things, urges the Ugandan Government to take action to ensure independent community living for people with disabilities. 

Psychiatric hospitals in Uganda: A human rights investigation, 2014

This report presents the findings from the first human rights monitoring of psychiatric facilities in Uganda. The monitoring sets out the forms and extent of torture, ill-treatment, and violence that take place in Ugandan psychiatric hospitals. The report includes recommendations to the Ugandan Government focusing on reducing coercion, violence and abuse in hospitals and tackling the causes. Recommendations also include shifting away from the promotion of institutional living in favour of advocating and developing community-based alternatives.

Litigating the Right to Community Living for People with Mental Disabilities, 2014

This handbook is a practical tool for lawyers in Europe who wish to help clients with mental disabilities leave institutions so that they can live independently with supports in the community – a right guaranteed in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. 

Out of Sight: Human Rights in Psychiatric Hospitals and Social Care Institutions in Croatia, 2011

This report presents the findings of monitoring visits made to selected psychiatric hospitals and social care institutions in Croatia. It makes assessments on to what extent practices in such places conform with international human rights standards, whilst shining a light on the daily lives and experiences of service users. It makes recommendations to the Croatian Government on how better to uphold the rights of people with disabilities, not least in respect to ensuring the process of deinstitutionalisation and the creation of community-based services which truly respect autonomy, privacy, and dignity. 


Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe

Safeguarding human rights in times of economic crisis, 2013

This report draws upon how the meltdown of the global financial system in 2008 led to many Council of Europe Member States introducing austerity-heavy agendas which have proved to be an affront to human rights. It touches upon the argument that austerity-budgets have hindered the process of de-institutionalisation, therefore denying people with disabilities the right to live independently and be included in the community. 

The right of people with disabilities to live independently and be included in the community, 2012

This report traces the right to independent living and to be included in the community (Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)) to its roots in human rights standards, and looks to explores the various violations of this right and the community-based alternatives available. It also drawing links to the other rights in the CRPD, like to right to legal capacity, which can be important to ensuring Article 19 CRPD is satisfied. Also included in the report are indicators which help assess to what extent Governments are moving away from violating Article 19 CRPD to ensuring independent and inclusive community living.  


European Ombudsman

Decision of the European Ombudsman closing her own-intiative inquiry concerning the European Commission, 2015

This statement follows the completion of a one-year-long inquiry by the European Ombudsperson in to the monitoring, control and management of European Structural and Invest Funds (ESI Funds), the single largest funding stream administered by the European Commission (EC). The findings show that the EC lacks suitable mechanisms necessary to stop ESI Funds being used to finance human rights violations – like the funding of institutional living. In the statement are eight recommendations issued to the EC in order to better control and monitor the use of these Funds. 


EU Fundamental Rights Agency

Human Rights Indicators on Article 19 of the CRPD, 2015

This report highlights a list of draft indicators which can be used to assess whether EU States have complied with Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, in respect to transition of institutional care to community-based services specifically. 

Choice and Control: The Right to Independent Living, 2012

This report seeks to explain that for independent community living to be fully guaranteed for people with mental health issues and intellectual disabilities, a number of social reforms in respect to education, healthcare, employment and other areas must be made, in addition to facilitating the process of de-institutionalisation. 


Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

Getting a Life, 2014

This report looks to shed light on the minimum conditions needed to positively utilise EU structural funds to support implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, namely the right to independent living and inclusion in to the community. 

Thematic study on the right of persons with disabilities to live independently and be included in the community, 2014

This report focuses on the promotion and protection of the right to live independently and be included in the community, so as to avoid institutionalisation and health segregation with the overriding objective of ensuring people with disabilities can participate effectively in society. 


Open Society Foundations

The European Union and the Right to Live in the Community, 2012

This report focuses on how EU Member States in Central and Eastern Europe spend EU structural funds to fund institutional living for people with disabilities, in conflict with the right to independent community living set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The report also includes a legal opinion from Richard Gordon QC on whether the use of EU structural funds for the purposes of funding institutions is contrary to EU law.

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