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European Union, human rights and UN

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This page applies mainly to the United Kingdom.
Last updated 2nd January, 2012.

This section deals with European Union law, human rights law, and UN conventions on disability discrimination.


How important are treaties?

Apart from European Union law, you really want to base any disability discrimination 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 Framework Employment Directive , which is part of European Union law. This directive and European Court cases on it have had an important effect on UK law and practice;
  • to a lesser extent the European Convention of Human Rights brought into UK law by the Human Rights Act
  • possibly (but much less important, at least to date) the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights if the Human Rights Act does not apply.

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.

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). It is available on the ISA website

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