Press Release

The IACHR Calls on States to Adopt Measures to Guarantee People with Disabilities Full Legal Capacity from a Human Rights Approach

December 3, 2020

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Washington, D.C. - On the International Day of People with Disabilities, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) calls on States to adopt measures to guarantee people with disabilities full legal capacity, incorporating a human rights approach. It also urges States to eradicate the various forms of discrimination and stigmatization against people with disabilities, particularly through policies that promote their deinstitutionalization.

The IAHCR has pointed out that people with disabilities have equal rights and should thus have full legal capacity and the power to make choices about every aspect of their lives. In addition, it is the understanding of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IA Court) that the clinical care model through which disability has traditionally been understood has increased these people’s vulnerability. The organs of the IASHR have stressed the need to approach disability through the social model, which promotes an independent way of life for people with disabilities, always in accordance with the principles of dignity, autonomy, equality, and nondiscrimination.

In this context, the IACHR welcomes the legislation in Peru, Costa Rica, Argentina, and Colombia that is moving toward recognizing the full legal capacity of people with disabilities, in line with states’ international obligations. It also calls for these instruments to be implemented appropriately, in a way that promotes the effective participation of people with disabilities in all spaces and at all levels of decision-making.

The IACHR has received information that reveals the ongoing presence of barriers preventing people with disabilities from autonomously exercising their rights. In addition to the historical and structural discrimination they face, which is expressed in various legal ways, different organizations have spoken out against the persistence of legal concepts that undermine the legal capacity of people with disabilities, along with the continuing use of medical treatments and forced institutionalization.

The IACHR has also received information on the disproportionate risks faced by people with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, those who have been institutionalized are more likely to catch COVID-19, in addition to risks that they already face such as torture and other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, including medication and forced sterilization.

The IACHR notes that people with disabilities should be able to exercise their rights on an equal footing with all other people and should have the power to decide on their life projects themselves. It therefore calls on States in the region to adopt special measures to guarantee that they can exercise their legal capacity and to redouble efforts to build an effective support system, in keeping with the social model of disability. Finally, the IACHR urges States in the region to promote deinstitutionalization policies with a human rights approach, to ensure that people with disabilities can live autonomously and independently.

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. 289/20