Strengthening access to civil justice for persons with disabilities: a comparative socio-legal study of Thailand and Ireland
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This research aims to find out how to strengthen access to civil justice for persons with disabilities, especially in Thailand and Ireland. It examines the meaning of “access to justice” through theories of justice and access to justice, principles of equality, general international human rights law and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). The research identifies four dimensions of the conception of justice in the disability context: institutional, capability, non-domination and equality dimensions; and adopts Amartya Sen’s Capability Approach by interpreting the conception of access to justice in this study as a “functioning” that persons with disabilities have reason to value in order to be able to achieve their rights and liberties protected by the rule of law. The research also examines international human rights laws, and classifies the right to access to civil justice into six categories: 1) the right to equality before courts and tribunals, 2) the right to legal assistance or representation, 3) the right to communication assistance, 4) the right to be heard or a fair hearing by courts, tribunals or other competent bodies in personal presence within a reasonable time or without delay, 5) the right to a remedy, reparation or compensation, and 6) the right to complain, challenge or appeal. The research findings show that the phrase “effective access to justice for persons with disabilities on an equal basis with others” in article 13 of the UNCRPD and interrelationship between article 13 and other articles in the Convention are the key additional features provided by the UNCRPD. The research examines legal mechanisms and regulations on access to civil justice for persons with disabilities in two jurisdictions: Thailand and Ireland, and includes qualitative research with all groups of persons with disabilities and people who work in the justice system to identify the effectiveness of these laws and regulations in practice. This research proposes five key elements for strengthening access to civil justice for persons with disabilities in those two countries: 1) effective and enforceable legal mechanisms, 2) competent, independent and impartial justice systems, 3) supportive mechanisms, 4) positive and inclusive attitudes towards persons with disabilities, and 5) effective enforcement mechanisms.