Complaints Of Institutional Segregation And The Abuse Of Children And Adults With Disabilities In Mexico

Commissioners: Santiago A. Cantón, Rodrigo Escobar Gil, Felipe González; Rosa María Ortíz

Petitioners: Colectivo Chuhcan / Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos (CMDPDH) / Disability Rights International (DRI) / Documenta, análisis y acción para la justicia social, AC (Documenta) / Instituto Mexicano de Derechos Humanos y Democracia (IMDHD)

State: State of Mexico. The State of Mexico was represented by the Ambassador Joel Hernández (Permanent Representative at OAS), Ambassador Alejandro Negrín Muñoz (General Director of Human Rights and Democracy, Foreign Relations), Guillermo Gobela (General Coordinator of Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Department of Health), Dr. Carlos Campillo Serrano (Adjunct General Director of Psychiatric Attention Services of the Department of Health) and Dr. Gabriel Sotelo Monroig (Director of Psychiatric Attention) and Max Diener (Sub-Secretary of Government).

People lying nude in the floor or half naked in open courtyards, defecating in fields; people behind small cells, individuals tied down, wrapped in gauze strips tied head-to-toe; people covered with urine and feces and individuals languishing in beds or in inactivity, old buildings with leaking roofs, bathrooms with poor hygiene— these are some the images presented in the video testimony of Eric Rosenthal, the executive director of Disability Rights International (DRI) and one of the petitioners to open the argumentation in the hearing. The video-testimony refers to a DRI report, titled Abandoned and Disappeared: Mexico’s Segregation and Abuse of Children and Adults with Disabilities Report, which was based on a ten-year investigation. In the report, DRI found that children with disabilities are disappeared and trafficked, and that individuals held in psychiatric institutions are left in permanent restraint subject to torture or abandoned. In such institutions, there is a lack of treatment, habilitation, and rehabilitation, and degrading and inhumane living conditions. Individuals held face a loss of legal capacity and lack of access to the justice.

Petitioners are raised issues related with the criminalization of the persons with mental disabilities within the Mexican penal system. In Mexico, there are only two prisons specialized in mental disability and, by contrast, 415 penal centers, only four of which have properly trained medical staff to tend to a population of 13,600 people. In light of these findings, the petitioners requested an amendment to the criminal law to include safeguards for the persons with disabilities. Raul Montoya Santamaría, a representative of Colectivo Chuhcan, stressed the importance of the fully integrating people with disabilities into society, as well as the importance of reforming the law regarding the guardianship of institutionalized people with disabilities. Agustín de Pavía Frías, a lawyer and a person with cerebral palsy, likewise emphasized the integration of people with disabilities. Petitioners representing IMDHD questioned Mexico’s late and ineffective response to the issues presented, despite Mexico’s promotion of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The petitioners formally requested a special rapporteurship on the rights of persons with disabilities. They also requested that the Commission conduct a site visit to Mexico’s institutions to confirm the facts presented, and that Mexico reform its federal and local legal framework to support the independence, inclusion, and complete participation of persons with disabilities in society. They also proposed the creation of a working group with the participation of state officials and civil society organizations on behalf of the persons with disabilities in Mexico.

Representatives of Mexico underscored that the matter of rights for persons with disabilities is a complex challenge, but affirmed their willingness to continue working in the local and international arena on behalf of persons with disabilities. Mexico highlighted the adoption of a series of legislative measures designed to accord their legal framework with international standards.

At the end of the hearing, the Commissioners made a series of questions, to which the parties were asked to submit written answers. Commissioner Rodrigo Escobar Gil asked about specialized penal policies focused on persons with disabilities. Commissioner Escobar Gil also asked about if there is a special budget allocated to persons with disabilities to this population, about alternative mechanisms to outright imprisonment, and about protective measures in the course of criminal investigations. Commissioner Rosa María Ortíz asked about the measures taken to combat preventable mental disabilities, and about measures for the early detection of disabilities. Commissioner Ortíz also asked about the State’s plans to address issues associated with children with disabilities. Commissioner Felipe González asked Mexico to address ways to disseminate the information regarding state resources allocated to persons with disabilities, and how the resources are distributed. He emphasized the importance of the transparency and the monitoring of independent organizations of the use of these resources. Commissioner González also affirmed the importance of the participation of civil society organizations that are not part of the collective group discriminated. In closing, Commissioner González applauded the agreement of the parties to establish a permanent channel of communication as a positive step towards the inclusion of civil society groups in the creation of public policy for persons with disabilities.


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