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Commissioners: Rose-Marie Belle Antoine, José de Jesús Orozco Henríquez, Dina Shelton

Petitioner:  El Instituto de Democracia y Derechos Humanos de la Pontificada Universidad Católica del Perú (IDEH-PUCP)

State: Peru

Photo Courtesy of Comision Interamericana de Derechos Humanos

Petitioner before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) asserted that despite various efforts to ensure legal rights for persons with mental and intellectual disabilities in Peru, various barriers continue to exist. Representatives from Peru recognized shortcomings of existing legislation and are currently addressing these concerns.

At the November 1 hearing, Elizabeth Salmón, director of El Instituto de Democracia y Derechos Humanos de la Pontificada Universidad Católica del Perú (IDEH-PUCP), recognized Peru’s ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Inter-American Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities, but explained that various barriers exist in incorporating these Conventions into domestic legislation. These Conventions are important because they abandon the “medical model” of viewing disability as a disease and move toward a “social model,” incorporating sociological factors into anti-discriminatory legislation. Implementing these changes has been problematic for many countries. In December 2012, Peru enacted General Law 29973 to begin incorporating these rights, but provisions for regulation and establishing an advisory committee for revising the civil code were not enacted within their specified deadlines.

Jimena Castillo, a law student in the IDEH-PUCP clinic at the Universidad Católica del Perú, asserted that various aspects of the Conventions, including recognizing the legal capacity of persons with disabilities, continue to be restricted in domestic legislation because of societal barriers. Persons with mental and intellectual disabilities cannot obtain an identity card, enter into marriage, or sign valid contracts. She explained the limitations this places on persons with disabilities in obtaining employment. Additionally, parents and guardians of persons with disabilities are encouraged to further restrict their capacity. IDEH-PUCP representatives presented a video, in which persons with Down syndrome and their guardians explained the effects of these barriers. IDEH-PUCP asked the Government of Peru to review the civil code and incorporate a consultation system to address limitations of legal capacity and to establish a special unit to address these issues.

Luis Huerta Guerrero, the Special Prosecutor of Peru, acknowledged the importance of this hearing and other discussions in improving the framework for protection of the human rights of those with disabilities. He explained that measures are being taken to ensure these rights and that on October 31, 2013, Congress decided that within sixty days, an advisory committee would be appointed and that within one year, a court would be formed to implement the measures. Organizations such as the Ministry of Labor and Department of Labor are addressing these issues and many individual companies have worked to increase job placement of persons with disabilities. Members of CONADIS explained seven modifications of the civil code that the General Law undertakes to protect the rights of persons with disabilities. They assert that the law lifts restrictions on marriage, probate and wills, and requesting paternity while enshrining the human rights of inclusion, equality, and integrity. The law has a reviewing commission to update institutions to give efficient and current treatment and CONADIS members assert that it simplifies the declaration of incompetence and interdiction, provided there is an agreement between the family and the person deemed incompetent. The Special Prosecutor explained that the successful implementation of international conventions is a complex process and committed to convening all sectors of civil society in Lima to implement legislation more effectively.

The Commissioners recognized that incorporating international conventions is a broad regional issue and that Peru is a leader by actively reviewing its domestic legislation and forming working groups to advance standards and regulations. The Commissioners recognized the historical significance of this hearing. It was, not only, the first hearing to address these issues, but also the first hearing to incorporate both sign-language translation and readable text for persons with disabilities. While the world is advancing in terms of disability rights, the Commissioners explained that it is important to better incorporate organizations into the decision-making process and for the state to address legal capacity in a substantive manner. Commissioner Rose-Marie Belle Antoine explained that in Peru, measures of determining if a person can independently function must be improved. She recognized that positive changes in society may affect a person’s ability to become independent and suggested that a court be established for persons to change their status and gain independence if they can demonstrate that they have the ability. The Commission recognized that these freedoms must also incorporate a balance to protect persons with disabilities who may be more susceptible to abuse and explained that the IACHR plans to move forward with a thematic report of this issue.