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Down Syndrome International was shocked and saddened to hear of the fatal shooting of Nathaniel Julius, a 16-year-old with Down syndrome, by police officers in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Wednesday 26 August. Our thoughts are with Nathaniel’s family and we urge the South African authorities to ensure that justice is done for Nathaniel and his family and community. We fully endorse the statement and demands for remedial actions released by Down Syndrome South Africa, the South Africa Disability Alliance and Special Olympics South Africa on 1 September 2020.

This tragic killing at the hands of those whose job is to protect the community is a stark reminder that worldwide people with Down syndrome and disabilities continue to have their fundamental rights violated. For Nathaniel this was a violation of the most basic of human rights, the right to life.

We call on the government of South Africa and other governments worldwide to fulfil the rights of people with disabilities like Nathaniel to live in their communities safely without fear of exploitation, violence or abuse, with equal opportunities to participate and be fully included. These rights are clearly defined in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Nathaniel’s death has parallels with that of Ethan Saylor, a 26-year-old with Down syndrome, in Maryland, USA in 2013. Ethan’s death was an equally tragic and avoidable death at the hands of police after he was dragged from a cinema and subsequently died. Ethan’s death led to the creation of LEAD, a training program for law enforcement on how to interact with people with intellectual disabilities. People with disabilities are directly involved in the delivery of the program.

We hope the tragic death of Nathaniel will lead governments worldwide to take the proactive steps necessary to prevent this from happening again.

Read the statement of Down Syndrome South Africa (DSSA) and others here:

Statement from DSSA

Read a message from the International Disability Alliance (IDA) here:

Message from IDA

Read a message from Sir Robert Martin, member of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities:

Message from Robert Martin