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UN panel approves disability rights treaty but US will not sign

[JURIST] A UN General Assembly panel [official website] late Friday approved by consensus a draft disability rights treaty, clearing the way for its formal adoption by the Assembly at its 61st annual session beginning in September prior to being open to signatures. The draft of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities ran into last-minute difficulties [JURIST report] earlier this week in the face of over 150 proposed amendments [texts] and disagreements about the scope of enshrined sexual and reproductive freedoms, but finally won endorsement in an evening session. Top UN officials, including High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour, had pressed for the approval of the draft [JURIST report].

The Convention is the first human rights treaty of the 21st century and is designed to encourage governments to pass legislation protecting people with disabilities and to eliminate discriminatory laws and practices. Only 45 countries in the world currently have disability legislation, including the United States, which adopted the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) official website] in 1990. The US has indicated, however, that it will not sign [New Standard report] the new international accord, insisting that US domestic measures on the federal, state and local levels are already adequate for the purpose. Critics say the US position is a slight to the principle of international regulation and monitoring. The treaty is expected to take effect in 2008 or 2009 after the necessary number of ratifications has been reached. Reuters has more. BBC News has additional coverage.

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