WASHINGTON, Nov. 21, 2013 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is urging the Senate to ratify a United Nations treaty that protects the rights of people with disabilities and extends to them full equality under the law in participating nations.
“On behalf of America’s service members, [Defense Department] civilians, and military family members with disabilities, I urge the United States Senate to approve the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,” Hagel said in a statement issued yesterday.
The treaty opened for signature in 2007 and came into force in May 2008 after 20 parties had ratified it. The United States has signed the convention, but a Senate vote last year failed to ratify it.
One of the legacies of the past 12 years of war is that thousands of young Americans will carry physical wounds for the rest of their lives, Hagel said in his statement. “These wounded warriors deserve to have the same opportunities to live, work, and travel as every other American, and to participate fully in society whether at home or abroad,” he added.
Joining the treaty will allow the United States to help in shaping international practices for people with disabilities that are consistent with the nation’s high standards for access and opportunity, the secretary said. It also would help personnel who have family members with disabilities, he noted, who often have to choose between their families and their careers when considering assignments in other countries.
“Treating people with respect and dignity is one of the fundamental values of the United States armed forces,” Hagel said. “It is a value that our men and women in uniform fight for around the world. Failing to approve this treaty would send the wrong message to our people, their families, and the world.
“Approving it would help all people fulfill their potential,” he added. “That’s why I strongly support swift Senate action.”