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Thank you to DRI International Ambassador Holly Valance

Washington, DC — December 15, 2014– DRI International Amassador Holly Valance recently participated in London’s ICAP Charity Day, where she raised $40,000 for DRI’s mission of promoting the human rights and full participation in society of people with disabilities worldwide.

DRI International Ambassador Holly Valance, pictured during ICAP Charity Day on December 3, 2014.

DRI International Ambassador Holly Valance, pictured during ICAP Charity Day on December 3, 2014.

Actress and singer Holly Valance has supported DRI and served as our International Ambassador for almost a decade. In 2013, Holly and her husband, Nick Candy, traveled with DRI to Eastern Europe to visit institutions and witness the conditions firsthand.

“I’m so proud to be associated with DRI,” says Valance. “Of everything I’ve ever done, from my music to TV and films and awards, this is what really matters to me. It is my greatest achievement.”

ICAP Charity Day is an annual event where all profits and brokers’ commissions are given to charities supported by celebrities and personalities chosen to participate. Since 1993, ICAP Charity Day has given over $185 million to more than 1,800 causes around the world.

BBC Shines Spotlight on Abusive Institution in Guatemala – and DRI’s fight to protect detainees

Washington, DC – December 5, 2014 – Read the BBC’s reporting on abuses in Guatemala’s Federico Mora psychiatric facility, or hear the story on BBC World Service Radio.bbc ad guatemala

Watch the full-length documentary from BBC Our World on Youtube.

Watch a short video from BBC’s report on Youtube.

Learn more about DRI’s work to protect children and adults with disabilities in Guatemala. Please support our work.

For the Spanish version of DRI’s press release, click here.

For links to Spanish-language press coverage of the documentary, click here.

Unlock the Cage–The most vulnerable need your help this holiday season

December 2, 2014

Dear Friend of DRI,

While channel surfing late into the evening, I came across a commercial asking viewers to help rescue abandoned and abused dogs and cats. Singer-songwriter Sarah McLachlan made a passionate plea while her haunting ballad “In the Arms of the Angels” played in the background. With sad animals in cages staring into the camera, Sarah begged viewers to make a monthly donation. “They deserve love and a home. They have been neglected and abused.”

jorge web

DRI found Jorge, who was diagnosed with autism, locked in a cell where he spent most of his childhood.

According to the New York Times, the gut-wrenching piece raised a record-breaking $30 million for dogs and cats. I remember thinking, “I have seen abandoned and abused children in orphanages, state institutions and social care homes all over the world. I’ve seen children in cages in dozens of countries, children with no homes, children tied to beds and cribs for years. Children tortured and left to die.” Don’t children with disabilities around the world deserve as much attention and support? Will you help us help them?

Just last month, children with disabilities in Greece were found locked in cages 24/7 at a government run institution. According to a nurse at the facility – which mainly houses children with autism and developmental disabilities – the children “liked” the cages rather than being “permanently tied by their arms and legs to their beds.”

These are the horrendous human rights abuses perpetrated against children that we are fighting to abolish. And that is why we have launched our Worldwide Campaign to End the Institutionalization of Children. Placement in institutions is often a death sentence for children. If they survive childhood, they face a lifetime of isolation, loneliness and abuse.

It might seem an insurmountable problem to solve, but quite frankly, it is not. Up to 95% of institutionalized children worldwide have living parents or relatives. Disability and poverty are the two main drivers that push children out of their homes and into orphanages. Most families would keep their children if they had some financial support, were able to send their children to school and had help from their communities.

And what would that take? As a society, we must insist that donors support families instead of institutions. Governments, faith-based groups and other donors need to stop funding the building, rebuilding, refurbishing and staffing of orphanages anywhere in the world.

I am happy to report we are making headway. UNICEF has supported our Campaign by including it in their recent State of the World’s Children Report. The European Union and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) are responding to our call to stop funding the isolation and segregation of children. And PBS’s program The Visionaries will air a one hour documentary about our work in early 2015 that will showcase our success stories around the world.

But that is not enough. We are looking for the “tipping point” – a point in which no organization or government will feel comfortable funding segregation in orphanages that denies children their basic human rights.

We need your help to take on this challenge. We ask for your generous donation and depend on your support.

And we need you to do more. You can be part of this global change in a very personal way. You can transform the life of a child today and those yet to be born – help unlock the cage, untie the restraint, re-unite a family.

In addition to your financial support, can you tweet about the children? Put us up on your Facebook page? Tell your friends and colleagues about our work and the children who are suffering? Get students at your school involved? Ask your teens and college students to help our videos to go viral? Perhaps you or someone you know has expertise in media or publishing?  Do you know a celebrity who would speak publicly on our behalf? The possibilities are endless.

This is a problem WE can end in our lifetime. Please join us.

Warmest regards and much love in the New Year,

Laurie Ahern
President
Disability Rights International

DRI’s Eric Rosenthal Appointed Georgetown University Law School 2015-2016 Drinan Chair in Human Rights

Washington, DC — November 4, 2014 – Georgetown University Law Center today announced the appointment of Eric Rosenthal, Disability Rights International’s (DRI) founder and executive director, to the 2015-2016 Robert F. Drinan, S.J. Chair in Human Rights.

“This appointment recognizes Eric Rosenthal for his invaluable contributions to international human rights,” said Georgetown Law Dean William M. Treanor.  ”We are very pleased that it will allow the Law Center to continue Fr. Drinan’s extraordinary legacy.”

As the Drinan Chair holder, Rosenthal will teach a course during the fall semester of 2015 focused on international human rights advocacy for children and adults with disabilities – allowing J.D. and LL.M. students to benefit from his expertise as a leader in the global disability rights movement.

DRI Founder and Executive Director Eric Rosenthal

Rosenthal, who was featured in the spring 2013 issue of Georgetown Law magazine, is the founder and executive director of DRI, one of the world’s first and leading advocacy organizations dedicated to the protection and full inclusion of children and adults with disabilities under international human rights law.

Recognizing and protecting the human rights of persons with disabilities was the topic of a seminar paper Rosenthal wrote as a student at Georgetown Law. Since establishing DRI a year after graduation, in 1993, he has trained human rights and disability activists and provided assistance to governments and international development organizations worldwide.  Rosenthal helped establish six independent disability rights organizations run by people with disabilities around the world. He has served as a consultant to the U.S. National Council on Disability, UNICEF, the World Health Organization, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and the UN Special Rapporteur on Disability.

In 2008, Rosenthal received the Henry A. Betts Award from the American Association of People with Disabilities for his role in helping to inspire and build support for the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. In 2013, he was the recipient of the Charles Bronfman Prize, which “celebrates the vision and endeavor of an individual or team under fifty years of age whose humanitarian work, combined with their Jewish values, has significantly improved the world.”

“We are delighted that Eric – an alumnus who created a very effective human rights organization to address a major gap in international law in order to protect a very vulnerable group of people – will be teaching our students next fall,” said Georgetown Law Human Rights Institute Director Andrew I. Schoenholtz.

“Fr. Drinan was my first human rights professor in law school,” said Rosenthal. “But he was much more than a law professor. He was the embodiment of what it is to be a human rights activist – someone who stands up for his values and for people who are downtrodden around the world – whatever others may think. I have always sought to live up to that standard, and I am deeply indebted to Fr. Drinan for his mentorship, friendship and support. It is a true honor to serve as a human rights professor in his name.”

Rosenthal received a B.A. from the University of Chicago and a J.D. cum laude from Georgetown Law, where he has also served as an adjunct professor, teaching courses in public interest advocacy.

The Drinan Chair was established in 2006 in honor of Professor Robert F. Drinan, S.J. Drinan was a professor at Georgetown Law from 1981 until his death in 2007, as well as a priest, scholar, lawyer, politician, activist, ethicist and one of the nation’s leading advocates for international human rights. He dedicated his life to humanitarian causes and to improving the legal profession.

See Georgtown’s announcement on Rosenthal’s appointment, here.

 

DRI files international case to protect children and adults detained in Guatemala’s dangerous Federico Mora institution

Media Contact:
English: Eric Rosenthal, erosenthal@DRIadvocacy.org, 202-296-0800 ext. 650
Spanish: Humberto Guerrero, hguerrero@DRIadvocacy.org, +52 1 55 20942501

Washington, DC – October 29, 2014 - Disability Rights International (DRI) filed a case today in the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States (OAS) on behalf of people with disabilities detained in Guatemala’s Federico Mora psychiatric institution. “Federico Mora is the most violent and dangerous facility we’ve discovered anywhere in the Americas,” said DRI Executive Director Eric Rosenthal. “We are fighting to protect the 340 children and adults detained at Federico Mora – and institutions like this throughout the Americas.”

three women on concrete floor behind a fence in the Federico Mora institution
Women detained in the Federico Mora psychiatric institution, where they are at high risk of sexual abuse and trafficking

The Federico Mora psychiatric institution is located next to a prison in one of the most crime-ridden parts of Guatemala City where gangs are powerful. Armed police and soldiers with machine guns assigned to guard detainees also prey on children and adults with disabilities.   Staff and patients have reported that rape, violence, and other forms of abuse are routine. DRI has received reports that patients are trafficked into the prison and outsiders are brought into the facility to exploit detainees for sex. People subjected to sexual abuse are exposed to HIV/AIDS, which is widespread at the facility, and almost no medical care is available. Staff report that there have been three recent deaths.

“There is a palpable climate of fear among detainees and staff. Witnesses tell us they will be killed if they are identified by the perpetrators,” said DRI attorney Humberto Guerrero. “We are meeting today with the Inter-American Commission to ask for urgent ‘precautionary measures’ to protect these witnesses. We are also seeking protections for DRI investigators who have been threatened with violence for monitoring conditions at Federico Mora.”

“Detaining people with disabilities in snake pits like this violates international law. Federico Mora can’t be fixed up – it must be closed down,” says Rosenthal. “This case will set a powerful new precedent in challenging the segregation of people with disabilities,” says DRI legal advisor Tara Melish, a professor at SUNY Buffalo Law School, one of the authors of the brief. “We are asking the Human Rights Commission to protect the right of people with disabilities to live and receive treatment in the community. Our case argues that Guatemala’s law on guardianship improperly strips people of their legal identity and denies their right to decide where they will live or what treatment they receive. People under guardianship lose any right to file a complaint about abuse.”

“When our team first visited the facility, we found a boy held in a barren isolation cell. We were told by staff he was there for his own safety – as he would be raped as soon as he was released among the other patients,” said Priscilla Rodriguez, Director of DRI’s Women’s Rights Initiative. “The rampant sexual abuse is dangerous for all the patients, but women and girls are especially vulnerable. All women in the facility are given birth control without their knowledge.”

DRI is bringing the case in collaboration with the Human Rights Office of the Archdiocese of Guatemala City (ODHAG).

 

Disability Rights International urges the United States to ratify the UN Disability Convention

Disability Rights International (DRI) calls on our US supporters to take immediate action to push for Senate ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). “We at DRI have fought against torture, abuse, and segregation of people with disabilities throughout the world.  The United States will be in a much stronger position to take a stand on the rights of children and adults with disabilities – at home and abroad – when we hold ourselves to the same standard as other countries,” said Eric Rosenthal, DRI’s Executive Director.  We are close to achieving our goals – we must sway just a few more votes in the Senate!

Your Senators need to continue to hear from you and know that you support the CRPD! Show the community is behind this treaty. Visit the US International Council on Disability’s citizen action portal to call your Senators! They need to hear from our movement now.

Around the world, 147 countries have already ratified the CRPD.

Disability Rights International Executive Director Eric Rosenthal speaks at today's Senate rally in support of UN Disability Convention. 147 countries are on board -- but not the USA.

Disability Rights International Executive Director Eric Rosenthal speaks at a July 30 Senate rally in support of UN Disability Convention. 147 countries are on board — but not the USA.

Mexican activists challenge new law depriving right of persons with disabilities to make choices about their lives

On 9 June, Mexico City’s Legislative Assembly unanimously passed a law limiting the ability of thousands of people with disabilities in Mexico City to make legal decision about their lives. This reform violates the international obligations of the Mexican State under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (“Convention”). This system is based on the assumption that persons with disabilities cannot lead self-directed lives and assume a responsible control over their legal affairs.

Read DRI-Mexico’s press release challenging this development in Spanish or English.