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For Immediate Release

Deep Disappointment Follows Senate’s Rejection of UN Convention on Persons with Disabilities

Cambridge, Mass. - 12/04/2012

PHR is deeply disappointed at today’s Senate vote not to adopt the UN Convention on Persons with Disabilities.

“The US Senate has missed a historic opportunity to join 126 other nations where the human rights and basic freedoms of all people with disabilities have been affirmed,” said Hans Hogrefe, chief policy officer at PHR. “By its vote today, the Senate has shown itself willing to retreat from the forefront of protecting such rights, shown by its passage in 1990 of the ground-breaking Americans with Disabilities Act.”

The UN convention text was closely modeled on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which codified equality under the law and equal access to public accommodations. If the US had become a state party to the Convention, US law would not have changed. Rather, the US would have extended its model for protecting the rights of people with disabilities by fully joining the global conversation on disability rights.

President Obama has already signed the convention, but adoption by the Senate was required for full ratification. Opponents included champions of home schooling and parental rights, who erroneously feared government intrusion in their affairs, and abortion opponents concerned that ratification of the convention might complicate any attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade.

“While today's result is deeply disappointing, the fight for US ratification will continue,” Hogrefe said. “Political leaders in both parties and the enormous strength of the disability rights community, which gave us the world's gold standard in disability rights, the ADA, will ensure that the US will ultimately bring its strength to the protection of international disability rights.”

The Senate needed 67 votes to ratify the treaty, and failed by a vote of 61-38.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is an independent organization that uses medicine and science to stop mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. We are supported by the expertise and passion of health professionals and concerned citizens alike.

Since 1986, PHR has conducted investigations in more than 40 countries around the world, including Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Sudan, the United States, the former Yugoslavia, and Zimbabwe.

  • 1986 — Led investigations of torture in Chile gaining freedom for heroic doctors there
  • 1988 — First to document the Iraqi use of chemical weapons on Kurds providing               evidence for prosecution of war criminals
  • 1996 — Exhumed mass graves in the Balkans and Rwanda to provide evidence for               International Criminal Tribunals
  • 1997 — Shared the Nobel Peace Prize for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines
  • 2003 — Warned US Policymakers on health and human rights conditions prior to and               during the invasion of Iraq
  • 2004 — Documented genocide and sexual violence in Darfur in support of international               prosecutions
  • 2010 — Investigated the epidemic of violence spread by Burma’s military junta
  • 2011 — Championed the principle of noninterference with medical services in times of               armed conflict and civil unrest during the Arab Spring
  • 2012 — Trained doctors, lawyers, police, and judges in the Democratic Republic of the               Congo, Kenya, and Syria on the proper collection of evidence in sexual               violence cases
  • 2013 — Won first prize in the Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention with MediCapt, our               mobile app that documents evidence of torture and sexual violence

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