Validity Foundation - Mental Disability Advocacy Centre

Strengthening the rights of victims with disabilities

By Csenge Schőnviszky 28th September 2023


Validity and the European Network on Independent Living (ENIL) have published a joint submission to the European Commission in response to the redraft of the Victims’ Rights Directive.

Our work and research over many years have shown how victims with disabilities are all but invisible in the justice system – see in particular the Voices for Justice report, ‘Humanising Justice’.  When someone with a disability reports a crime, they are often not taken seriously, are not considered a ‘credible’ witness to the crime, and the harms caused are barely acknowledged. Victims with disabilities are frequently denied access to justice, and often face insurmountable legal and procedural barriers to being heard.

The Victims’ Rights Directive is a piece of EU legislation designed to set minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of crime across EU member States. Initially adopted in 2012, the operation of the VRD was evaluated during 2022, resulting in the publication of a revised draft in July 2023. Validity and ENIL welcome the inclusion of article 26(d) on the ‘rights of victims with disabilities, as well as references to the United National Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD).

Nevertheless, there is more work to ensure that the rights of persons with disabilities are reflected throughout the proposal, and a necessity to avoid paternalistic language and practices that frequently deny persons with disabilities equal access to justice. We have four specific concerns:

  • the obligation to provide both reasonable and procedural accommodations to victims with disabilities should be explicitly recognised
  • the individual assessment is a critical tool and process for assessing needs and ensuring the provision of such accommodations, but is presently not sufficient to identify legal, procedural and practical barriers hindering the participation of persons with disabilities in criminal justice processes
  • the redraft fails to give explicit recognition to the right to legal capacity of all persons with disabilities, undermining their status in proceedings, and
  • there are insufficient guarantees to ensure accessible information and specific assistance that may be required for victims with disabilities to participate directly in proceedings, including communication and information adaptations.

Thus far, our research shows that the Directive has been inconsistently implemented by Member States, and we call on the European Commission to strengthen its monitoring of transposition and implementation. It will also be crucial to enhance the quality and quality of data collection within criminal justice systems, to ensure that persons with disabilities are identified, and that justice systems are really improving outcomes for victims of crime with disabilities

As the new draft of the Directive makes its way through the European Parliamentary processes, Validity and ENIL will continue to work together to propose specific amendments to the text.

Further information