Press Release

IACHR Welcomes Elimination of Long-Term Solitary Confinement of People with Mental Disabilities in Ontario, Canada

January 30, 2018

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Washington, D.C.—The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) welcomes the elimination of the use of solitary confinement for people with disabilities in detention centers in the Canadian province of Ontario. The adoption of this measure is essential to protect the rights of people with disabilities who are deprived of liberty.

According to publicly available information, based on a decision issued on January 16, 2018, by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, the government of that province has agreed to adopt immediate measures to end the long-term segregation of people with disabilities who are deprived of liberty. These measures include identifying people with mental disabilities in detention centers and evaluating the use of solitary confinement and its impact on their health. This agreement will apply to the 26 correctional facilities in the province of Ontario, and its main objective is to end the use of segregation for this population. The province has also committed to appoint an independent specialist to monitor compliance with these measures.

“Long-term solitary confinement for persons with mental disabilities constitutes cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. Under international standards on this matter, States have the obligation to prohibit the application of this regime for persons with disabilities who are deprived of liberty,” said the IACHR Rapporteur for Canada, Commissioner Flávia Piovesan.

“The elimination of this practice in the province of Ontario is essential to protect the rights of persons with disabilities in the context of deprivation of liberty. I trust that this good practice can be replicated in the rest of Canada and in all countries in the region,” said the IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty, Commissioner Joel Hernández.

For his part, the IACHR President and Commissioner in charge of the Unit on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Francisco Eguiguren, said, “Persons with disabilities are at special risk in detention centers, due mainly to the barriers that keep them from exercising their rights. States have a special duty to protect them and thus have the obligation to ensure that detention centers adopt any special measures that may be necessary to guarantee conditions in which they can live with dignity.”

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 013/18