Ending Deprivation of Liberty on the Basis of Disability – New Publication

The deprivation of liberty on the basis of impairment is a human rights violation on a massive scale. Persons with disabilities are systematically placed into institutions and psychiatric facilities, or detained at home and other community settings, based on the existence or presumption of having an impairment. They are also overrepresented in traditional places of deprivation of liberty, such as prisons, immigration detention centres, juvenile detention facilities and children’s residential institutions. In all these settings, they are exposed to additional human rights violations, such as forced treatment, seclusion and restraints.

Rights of persons with disabilities – Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, Catalina Devandas Aguilar (UN Doc. A/HRC/40/54, 11 January 2019) §85.

Ending deprivation

The Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities is set to visit Canada from 2 to 11 April 2019. OHCHR has issued a call for written submissions in relation to this visit, more information about which can be found here in English.


The Special Rapporteur’s brand-new report discusses the underlying causes of disability-specific forms of deprivation of liberty, contrasting this bleak reality with the right to liberty and security of persons with disabilities as underpinned by international human rights law. The document underlines the following key point:

The universal nature of human rights means that the right to liberty and security cannot be denied on the basis of prohibited grounds, such as race, sex, age, disability, religion, national, ethnic, indigenous or social origin, or other status. Such deprivations of liberty are discriminatory and, thus, unlawful and arbitrary. However, for too long deprivation of liberty on the basis of actual or perceived impairment has been widely justified. (§41)

The Special Rapporteur rightly argues that the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities represents a milestone in the recognition of the right to liberty of persons with disabilities, especially its all-important Article 14. This latter article stresses that persons with disabilities must enjoy the right to personal liberty on an equal basis with others and cannot be deprived of their liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily (§43).

In her report the Special Rapporteur scopes out various key measures aimed at ending deprivation of liberty on the basis of disability. These include:

  • Law reform;
  • Deinstitutionalization;
  • Ending coercion in mental health;
  • Access to justice;
  • Community support;
  • Participation;
  • Capacity-building and awareness-raising;
  • And resource mobilization.

Read the UN Special rapporteur report focused on ending deprivation of liberty on the basis of disability. Lire le rapport en français.

An alternative version of the report designed for wider distribution is also available.

Explore the Special Rapporteur’s dedicated website.

Visit the related OHCHR website on Catalina Devandas Aguilar’s work.

Read about the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities in French and English.

Explore related materials under Other Resources.

Leave a Reply