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UN creates Haiti rights working group to assist disabled earthquake victims

[JURIST] The UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) [official website] announced [press release] on Friday the creation of a working group of rights experts to monitor the support offered to disabled Haitians as they attempt to recover from the damage caused by the January earthquake [NYT backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. The group will focus on ensuring that rights of disabled people receive attention as the country moves forward. The CRPD emphasized the importance of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities [materials] in creating the group. The CRPD said, “states are to take all necessary measures to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in situations of risk, and natural disaster like the occurrence of this earthquake.” The working group will also address rights of disabled persons in other countries that have suffered the effects of natural disasters, including individuals in Chile [NYT report]. The CRPD offered a statement [text] last month urging that the Haitian government, as well as other organizations assisting in the relief effort, provide the disabled, elderly and other vulnerable groups with preferential treatment in obtaining certain necessities.

Following the Haiti earthquake, observers have stressed the importance of promoting human rights [JURIST comment] during the rebuilding process. In January, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said that strengthening human rights [JURIST report] is an integral part of the rebuilding process in Haiti. Earlier in January, US President Barack Obama signed a bill [JURIST report] that will allow US citizens to claim donations to Haitian relief efforts as a deduction on their 2009 tax returns. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano [official profile] announced that Haitian nationals present in the US before the earthquake will be given temporary protected status and will not be deported for the next 18 months, but Haitian refugees who arrive in the US illegally will be sent back to their home country [JURIST reports].

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