DISABILITY LIVES MATTER - #JUSTICEFORALL

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Persons with Disabilities have a right to live in their communities safely without fear of exploitation, violence, abuse or prejudice. Every human being has an inherent right to life, including persons with disabilities as their rights are not special rights but human rights. Fundamental to these rights is access to justice, including a police force that respects their rights and understands how to interact with them.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Article 13.2, states: “In order to ensure effective access to justice for persons with disabilities, State Parties shall promote appropriate training for those working in the field of administration of justice, including police and prison staff”.

Down Syndrome South Africa (DSSA) and it’s member associations, supported by Down Syndrome International strongly condemns all violence against individuals with Down syndrome, including the killing of Nathaniel Julies, a 16-year old with Down syndrome, on Wednesday 26th August 2020 in Eldorado Park, Johannesburg.

Down syndrome is a genetic condition caused by an extra chromosome 21, known as Trisomy 21. This extra chromosome alters the course of development both physically and cognitively, which includes communication impairment. 

As organisations working in the disability sector we find that there is still  large scale exclusion and marginalization of persons with disabilities because their abilities to communicate may be impaired or because their ability to understand and to respond to situations may be affected by their disability.   

Because their conduct is different from the expected norm, the view that the lives of persons with disabilities is worth less than those without disabilities is entrenched.

Persons with disabilities are at risk of being victimized or may be exploited to their detriment and indeed physical harm. 

In the wake of the death of Nathaniel Julies and the manner in which he died, we demand the following remedial actions:  

  • South Africa signed and ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Person with Disabilities in 2007. This places a higher duty on government to protect the lives of all persons with disabilities; 
  • It is important for citizens to see the ministers and the City of Johannesburg take responsibility and enforce the message that criminal conduct by any person in public service will not be tolerated; 
  • In the interest of all South Africans, we call for swift and decisive action for the immediate suspension of public servants whenever they are allegedly involved in harming any person with a disability. There must be a thorough investigation followed by public and transparent prosecution and consequences through the actions of the National Prosecuting Authority by bringing them before the courts; 
  • That state departments  stop saying that their members have been trained and have special skills to deal with persons with intellectual disabilities but start to demonstrate those skills in dealing with persons with disabilities who have limited ability to comprehend and respond to instructions and situations.   
  • We call upon all law enforcement agencies and all state departments and public institutions to ensure that their members are properly equipped and skilled to deal with all South Africans including persons with disabilities.

Through our collective actions we can ensure JUSTICE FOR ALL.

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