MDAC urges European Court of Human Rights to respect autonomy of people with intellectual disabilities

The European Court of Human Rights will hear the case of Arri-Matti Virtanen v. Finland.  Mr Virtanen is a man with an intellectual disability who was forced to move away from his foster family and placed in an institution under the control of a State-appointed guardian. The Court has agreed to accept an intervention by expert NGO MDAC.


MDAC has now filed legal arguments supporting Mr Virtanen's right to live with his family.  In the intervention, MDAC underlines that treatment such as that suffered by Mr Virtanen is in violation of international law, and that it constitutes disability-based discrimination. The legal submission points out that the ”will and preferences” of persons with disabilities should be the deciding factor when courts make decisions which affect the lives of people with disabilities, and not the subjective opinions of third parties about what is in their “best interests”. Refusal to give effect to the autonomy of people with disabilities results in numerous human rights violations, and continues to be a widespread problem in countries which maintain paternalistic guardianship laws.


MDAC also relies on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the intervention which, among other things, promotes the right to able to choose one’s place of residence. Finland is one of the last countries in the European Union that has yet to ratify the Convention.  It is now globally recognised as the most authoritative statement of the rights and freedoms of people with disabilities. MDAC has called on the Government of Finland - which has 40,000 people with intellectual disabilities, and 1,749 people under guardianship orders - to ratify the Convention without further delay.


Doughty Street barristers Caoilfhionn Gallagher and Jesse Nicholls are instructed by MDAC in this case.  Oliver Lewis, associate tenant, is the Executive Director of MDAC.


More information is available from MDAC here.

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