International Association Autism Europe v. France, Complaint No. 13/2002.
Autism Europe claimed France had failed to provide sufficient education to adults and children with autism; social rights can be progressively realised when very complex and expensive but realization must occur within a reasonable time with maximum use of available resources; lack of overall progress by France constituted a violation; France's method of securing funds for education through social health insurance system was a matter of governmental discretion.
Autism‑Europe alleged that implementation by France of statutory instruments relating to provision of education to persons with disabilities was extremely poor. The overwhelming majority (80‑90 percent) of young adults and children with autism had no access to adequate educational services. Based on current rates of placements in special education, Autism‑Europe estimated that it would take 100 years to erase the deficit in the official waiting list, which then stood at 39 514 persons (even higher under the official WHO definition). It was also argued that insufficient provision had been made for mainstreaming of education, early intervention, and teacher training and that the funding formula for special education took insufficient account of the number of children in need. The Government of France acknowledged the above failings but pointed to new funding allocations and programmes, even though many of these were targeted at all people with disabilities. The Committee ruled that the Government's overall lack of progress in this area constituted a violation of the Charter, namely the right of persons with disabilities to education, the right of children and young persons to education, and the right of all persons to non‑discrimination. When the realisation of a Charter right was “exceptionally complex and particularly expensive”, a government was permitted some flexibility but realisation of social rights must occur within a “reasonable time, with measurable progress and to an extent consistent with the maximum available resources”. Noting that there had been twenty years of national debate on the subject, and that the Disabled Persons Act had been passed in 1975, the Committee found that there was an unacceptable and chronic shortage of places. It also chided the Government for its restrictive definition of autism. The Committee was not, however, prepared to censure France's method of funding special education through the State health insurance system, noting that this was a matter for State discretion.
Keywords: International Association Autism Europe v. France, Complaint No. 13/2002, Justiciability, Enforcement, ESCR
The Committee of Ministers, which is empowered to make recommendations with regard to the Committee's legal finding, noted the comprehensive measures France said it would take and stated that they looked forward to France reporting that the situation had improved at the time of its next report in the Supervision Cycle. Autism Europe acknowledged that these plans were still insufficient but hoped that the decision would ‘prompt France finally to provide appropriate education for people with autism'. In May 2006, the attorney for Autism-Europe noted that improvements were negligible despite the adoption of a new plan.
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Autism Europe noted that the case is significant not only for people for autism since its ‘scope goes well beyond this group by reasserting the right to education for all people with disabilities, regardless of the severity of the disability' and was the “first collective complaint to defend the rights of people with disabilities in Europe.'