Press Release

IACHR Urges States to Guarantee the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Who Are Deprived of their Liberty

December 3, 2015

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Washington, D.C. - In the context of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, December 3, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) urges States to adopt urgent measures to guarantee the rights of persons with disabilities who have been deprived of their liberty.

“Persons with disabilities in correctional facilities find themselves in a particularly vulnerable situation,” said the IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Commissioner James Cavallaro. “Inadequate accessibility, lack of reasonable accommodations, failure to provide specialized care suitable to their particular needs, lack of habilitation and rehabilitation, and inadequate training in disabilities for prison personnel are some of the obstacles faced by persons with disabilities in detention facilities,” the Rapporteur added.

In country visits and in hearings, as well as in requests for precautionary measures, the Inter-American Commission has received information concerning the situation of particular vulnerability of persons with disabilities who are incarcerated, due to the various barriers they face in exercising their rights. These barriers not only keep persons with disabilities from being able to develop independently and autonomously; they also increase the risk that their disability will increase throughout the time of their incarceration. The IACHR notes that, as the World Health Organization has established, a consequence of the deplorable conditions that often prevail in prisons is that a “disproportionately high” number of individuals deprived of their liberty will develop some type of disability, particularly a mental disorder.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights calls to mind that States have a special obligation to protect persons deprived of their liberty, especially those at particular risk of experiencing violations of their human rights, such as persons with disabilities. In this regard, States must ensure that detention facilities have made reasonable accommodations, are accessible, and guarantee decent living conditions for persons with disabilities who are deprived of their liberty.     

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 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. 141/15