Bulgarian Center for Not-For-Profit Law, Bulgaria is about to make step forward in the efforts to recognize the human rights of people with disabilities, 22 January 2015

Source: http://www.bcnl.org/en/news/1353-bulgaria-is-about-to-make-step-forward-in-the-efforts-to-recognize-the-human-rights-of-people-with-disabilities.html
Bulgaria is about to make step forward in the efforts to recognize the human rights of people with disabilities
22 January 2015
In November 2014 the Ministry of Justice published on its website proposals for amending the existing system of guardianship in Bulgaria. The proposals are systematized in the draft Law on the Natural Persons and Support Measures (LNPSM) which aims to abrogate the current Persons and Family Act, adopted in the early 50s of the last century. The Bill`s text provides a completely new system of measures. By virtue of these measures adult people with mental health problems or intellectual disabilities will be able to exercise their basic human rights in accordance with their personal desires and preferences. 

The draft of the new law abandons the old concept of "incapacitation" according to which people who are unable to take care of their own works due to their "mental disease or imbecility" are treated by the law as minors or under age, that is to say that their own rights must be exercised on their behalf by someone else. Thanks to the new regulations the concept of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (ratified by Bulgaria in the beginning of 2012) has been introduced. This concept considers the exercise of rights as an inherent quality of every human being just like their gaining.

The support and protection of people with mental health problems and intellectual disabilities, which are in the focus of the new measures, are based on the relationships of trust with other people and the connections that each person is able to built around him. Another important change is linked with the abandonment of the approach, according to which the support should be based on "the best interest of the person" (comprehended as criteria assessed by surrounding world in accordance with its own understandings). Instead, the draft requires the search of the best interpretation of every person`s wishes and preferences in the concrete situation. The guarantee for this is exactly the relationship of trust between the person who needs support and his trusted person who helps him by providing preliminary information and analyzing the legal consequences of a concrete decision. 

The draft law provides for an active role of the court as an independent body which monitors the existence of relationship of trust and guarantees that all the wishes and preferences of people when they exercise their human rights, would be respected by everyone. Secondly, there is a possibility for people with mental health problems and intellectual disabilities to defend their rights in any case before the court. This is something that is currently missing due to the guardianship and incapacitation of this group of people and this is also why Bulgaria is criticized and fined (eg. the case Stanev v. Bulgaria originated in the European Court of Human Rights). The measures are regulated in such a way that they could be as accessible and flexible as possible according to the needs of the person and the dynamics of its social life. Examples in this direction are the supported decision-making agreement, preliminary declarations and powers of attorney – these are the mechanisms through which the very person declares with whom he/she has a relationship of trust and on whom she/she relies to support him/her in the exercise of specific rights under specified life situations. 

On the occasion of the published draft law and as a part of the "Next Step" Program, "Bulgarian Center for Not-for-profit Law" Foundation (BCNL) launched a series of discussions with representatives of different groups for whom the provided measures are significant. Since the beginning of January it has been held a meeting with the members of the National organization of the consumers of mental health services. By the mid-February similar discussions will be held with parents of young people with autism and intellectual disabilities, organizations of persons with Alzheimer and dementia, representatives of professional communities such as psychiatrists, judges, social workers. The purpose of these meetings is to allow the persons who will be directly affected by the future Law on the Natural Persons and Support Measures to share their own experiences, suggestions and comments on the texts.