At the time of writing this article, a persistent 'rumor' is circulating that the UK has become the first country to face a high-level inquiry by a United Nations committee for human rights violations concerning the disabled. These investigations are normally conducted confidentially, so the UN's Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) which is carrying out the inquiry, have refused to officially confirm or deny that the UK is indeed being investigated.
At present, there is also an unusual silence from the mainstream media within Britain concerning this news, arguably something that wouldn't have been seen if similar rumors of human rights abuses were circulating about Germany, France or any other country around the globe. And as to be expected, no squeak has been heard on the matter from the British Government.
So what is going on? If we in Britain are indeed the first to be found in violation of human rights abuses concerning the disabled, then I think at the very least, we the British public should be told about it. However, the silence over this development seems to suggest that the UK may be subject to some kind of sinister media 'blackout' concerning this issue. Either that, or very few people within the British media actually care about human rights violations perpetrated against its very own citizens.
Rumors of UK human rights violations towards the disabled have a sound basis. Professor Gabor Gombos, a former CRPD member, while addressing the Sixth International Disability Law Summer School at the National University of Ireland in Galway in June this year, clearly stated during that address, that the UN had "started its first inquiry procedure" and that is "against the United Kingdom" - inquiries only instigated where there are suspicions of "grave" and "systematic" violations of human rights within a country against disability.
Pretty strong and shocking stuff, and stuff that has apparently slipped under the radar of the UK's free press, and also more unusually, slipped under the radar of the opposition Labor Party. If there was any bad news to bash the Government with, then you would have fully expected the UK's main political opposition party to the Government, willing to do it. But no, not on this occasion.
The recording of Professor Gombos's address to the law conference is over an hour long, but anybody wanting to watch this for themselves, can find the relevant information concerning the UK an hour into the recording.
I have no reason not to believe Professor Gombo's words, and why should I, he's a respected man and a man in a position to know. Therefore, the 'rumors' mentioned earlier should not be considered 'rumors' at all, but taken as fact - just that at the moment nobody has the 'will' to confirm this or report upon it.
But it won't exactly come as a complete surprise to anybody following the craziness of life within the UK at the moment. Talk has circulated for quite some time that the drastic welfare changes currently taking part within Britain, may be in violation of UN conventions concerning the human rights of disabled people.
Raquel Rolnik, a UN special rapporteur on housing, completed a detailed report on UK welfare changes and their negative effects upon the disabled last year, and presented that report to the 25th session of the Human Rights Council earlier this year, in March. That report came pretty much to the conclusion that radical welfare change taking place within the UK, would more than likely impact on the human rights of the disabled. These concerns were actually highlighted to the UN, more than 12 months previous to that report.
In addition, a recent 138 page report released by 'Just Fair' on 6th July 2014 called 'Dignity and Opportunity for All: Securing the rights of disabled people in the austerity era', highlighted that the UK government may indeed be in breach of its legal obligations to respect, protect and fulfill the human rights of disabled people. Breaches of human rights that fall primarily upon recent Government welfare changes, particularly to housing benefit and the introduction of PIP, which have been argued to be detrimental to independent living.
However, I would also suggest that any investigation of human rights abuse should include an investigation of the large number of suicides that have occurred within recent times, suicides of disabled people that have been reported by the coroner to have been primarily motivated by that persons concern and worries over PIP reassessments, or after having had their welfare benefits withdrawn. Whether the underlying cause of these suicides would also come under any UN investigation is open to debate, but they certainly may be argued to be an effect of badly thought out, and badly implemented welfare change.
In May 2015, we Brits face the next general election, where we choose the next British Government. The push for welfare change currently taking place within the UK is not slowing down, nor does this Government seem particularly concerned about the disastrous effects of those changes upon the UK's poor, including the disabled community. However, that same lack of concern over the effects of welfare change can also be leveled at the British Labor Party too, a party that has continually stated that the austerity measures currently taking in place within the UK, will not be driven back by a Labor Government coming to power at the next election. Therefore, the Labor Party seems to be in full agreement with this current Government, that any change taking place over welfare is right, just and a necessity. Which may explain their silence on the UK's violation of basic human rights.
The changes currently rolling on within the UK, are therefore not just about 'rolling back the state' within people's lives, and thereby saving the state money, but also an heavy handed ideological drive for reform that is designed to underpin and re-assert the 'work ethic' within the UK. It's a 'work ethic' that is often falsely argued to be diminishing due to an over generous benefit system, meaning that 'work' doesn't pay. And it is attempting to underpin the 'work ethic' by forcing as many people as possible off benefits, no matter what their personal circumstances may be. It's basically a policy of sink or swim, and as we have seen with the numbers of people committing suicide, due to having had their welfare benefits removed under the new welfare reassessment system - many can't swim.
A UN investigation of 'grave' and 'systematic' abuses of the human rights of the disabled within the UK is therefore to be welcomed. It's an investigation that can be seen as the result of political ideological tinkering, that not only sets out to further marginalize the disabled even further from the majority, but exploits them for political advantage - by cynically linking physical disability with 'benefit fraud'. Benefit change that undermines a disabled persons potential to be fully human and independent, either intentionally or unintentionally, are also the acts of 'oppression'. That should be remembered not just by the current British PM, Mr David Cameron, but also by the current PM in waiting, Mr Ed Miliband.