On 29 January 2021, the RA Government recalled from the National Assembly the RA Draft Law “On ratifying the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities”.
In case of ratifying the Protocol, the Republic of Armenia would recognize the commitment of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to receive and consider communications from or on behalf of individuals or groups of individuals subject to its jurisdiction who claim that violations of the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities were made.
In response to the inquiry of Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly Vanadzor Office, the RA Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs informed that only after the entry into force of the package of draft laws “On the Rights of Persons with Disabilities”, “On Functional Assessment”, “On the RA Code of the Administrative Offences”, “On Making Addenda to the RA Code on Administrative Offences” and “On Making an Amendment and Addenda to the RA Administrative Procedure Code”, will it be possible to fully ensure the obligations envisaged by the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; therefore, it was considered purposeful to temporarily withdraw the draft from circulation and come back to it after the adoption of the above-mentioned package of draft laws.
At this stage, such a justification of the Ministry is incomprehensible, especially taking into account the conclusion of the RA Ministry of Justice, according to which, the Protocol does not contain norms that contradict the legislation of the Republic of Armenia or envisage amendment or adoption of a new law. A question arises as to why the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs conditions the ratification of the Protocol by the adoption of the package of draft laws, if the RA Ministry of Justice does not see such a need. Or, how the draft on ratifying the Protocol was approved by the RA Government and sent to the National Assembly, if the legal field was not ready for it. By the way, the Expertise and Analytical Department of the RA National Assembly Staff conducted a legal, financial-exonomic, social examination, which identified no problem or basis hindering the ratification of the Protocol. And ultimately, the RA Government is the author of the draft on ratifying the Protocol, and not the RA Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, and why did the RA Government take such a step by taking into account the Ministry’s urge?
It should be mentioned that the ratification of the Protocol was envisaged back in 2015-2016 under the 2014-2019 Strategy of Maintenance and Improvement of Mental Health in the Republic of Armenia. By the ratification of the Protocol, the Republic of Armenia would also implement the commitment undertaken in the frame of the observation of the Universal Periodic Review, as well as the recommendation given in 2017 in the Committee’s final observations on the preliminary report of Armenia.
Before the Velvet Revolution, practical steps were not taken for the ratification of the Protocol, by justifying the postponement with the incomplete implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the need to change the current laws, habits and worktyle, including in terms of discrimination towards persons with disabilities. On 11 June 2020, the RA Government approved the Draft Law “On ratifying the Optional protocol to the “Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities”” signed on 13 December 2006, and, according to the decision and the procedure established, the Constitutional Court examined and recognized (in the decision 1556 of October 27) the compliance with the Constitution of the obligations enshrined in the Protocol.
It is noteworthy that along the work aimed at the ratification of the Protocol, on 5 August 2020, the RA draft decision developed by the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs was placed on e-draft.am website for public discussion. The Draft was adopted on 29 September 2020 and entered into force on October 4. Its action 1.1 envisaged implementation of work aimed at the ratification of the Protocol during the fourth quarter of 2021. Thus, it is also incomprehensible how and why the first 9 months of 2021 are skipped in the condition of the process that reached the final stage, and the work aimed at the ratification of the Protocol is envisaged only in the fourth quarter of 2021.
After the consistent work (aimed at the ratification of the Protocol) initiated during the office of the former Minister after the Velvet Revolution of 2018, recalling the draft based on incomprehensible substantiations is concerning, especially taking into account the post-war situation, when more than 9000 persons obtained body injuries of different degrees, and also obtained disabilities, while it is still impossible to imagine the volumes of the damage caused to mental health.
There is an impression that the work aimed at the ratification of the Protocol is implemented by two ministries, one of which reached the stage of ratification, while the other still envisages to conduct preparatory work.
We find it necessary to highlight that state bodies must be accountable to the public and should not be satisfied by just presenting an implemented action as a fact. Substantiations of any action should be presented at all levels and through broad sources available to the public.
Taking the aforementioned into account, we find that the RA Government should make public the real reasons for postponing the ratification of the Protocol and present exact terms of the ratification.