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1. The American Convention on Human Rights 

Article 18 of the 1988 Additional Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights in the Area of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (“Protocol of San Salvador”) states that persons with disabilities are entitled to special attention to achieve the greatest possible development of their personality. Pursuant to Article 18, States Parties agree to undertake programs aimed at providing persons with disabilities with resources needed to attain the greatest possible development of their personality. States Parties also agree to provide special training to the families of the persons with handicaps. The text of the Protocol of San Salvador is accessible here.

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2. The Inter-American Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities 

The Inter-American Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities was adopted by the General Assembly of the Organization of America States in 1999 and entered into force in 2001. It is divided into four parts:

  1. objectives concerning the prevention and elimination of discrimination and integration of persons with disabilities into society;

  2. obligations by States parties;

  3. definitions of discrimination and disability; and

  4. implementation mechanisms.

The text of the Inter-American Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities is accessible here.

 3. Inter-American Commission on Human Rights 

The mandate of the Inter-American Commission  is found in the Charter of the Organization of American States (“OAS”) and the American Convention on Human Rights (“ACHR”). Its main function is to promote the observance and protection of human rights and serve as a consultative organ of the OAS in these matters. The Inter-American Commission is composed of seven independent members who serve in a personal capacity. The work of the Inter-American Commission includes:

  1. The individual petition system - this deals with complaints submitted by individuals, groups of individuals, and non-governmental organizations recognized in any Member State regarding alleged violations of any of the regional human rights treaties (including the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man and Inter-American Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities);

  2. Monitoring of the human rights situations in the Members States; and

  3. Work related to priority thematic areas – such work include creating thematic rapporteurships in order to promote and protect the rights of vulnerable groups throughout the region (however, no rapporteurship has been established in relation to rights of persons with disabilities as at June 2019).

The Inter-American Commission has addressed issues related to rights of persons with disabilities on various occasions. It recognizes violations of such rights within Members States, including the failure to recognize the legal capacity of persons with disabilities, shortage of community services conducive to the integration of persons with disabilities into the community, short or long-term institutionalization of persons with disabilities without consent, lack of health, habitation, and rehabilitation services, inaccessibility of the physical environment, transportation, and information and communications, obstacles to access to justice, lack of reasonable accommodation in employment and education, and limited political participation.

The Inter-American Commission has urged Member States to adopt legislative, administrative, or other measures necessary to ensure the effective protection of human rights of persons with disabilities, in accordance with the international standards that provide the most protection. Under Article 3(1) of the CRPD, such measures shall include, but not be limited to measures to eliminate discrimination gradually and to promote integration by government authorities and/or private entities in providing or making available goods, services, facilities, programs, and activities such as employment, transportation, communications, housing, recreation, education, sports, law enforcement and administration of justice, and political and administrative activities. This should be carried out with the participation of persons with disabilities as actors in their own lives, and taking into account the main guiding principles of the social approach to disability, such as the autonomy and independence of persons with disabilities, non-discrimination, equality of opportunity, accessibility, and full and effective participation and inclusion in society.

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4. Inter-American Court of Human Rights (“ACtHR”)

The ACtHR is the judicial organ of the Inter-American human rights system. It has both contentious and advisory functions. The ACtHR’s contentious function allows it to hear cases brought by individuals or a Member State against another Member State for alleged violations of human rights under the American Convention of Human Rights (“ACHR”). The ACtHR may make decisions, take protective measures, and issue sentences on cases. However, it can only do so in cases where the Member State has agreed for the ACtHR to rule on such cases. In this regard, the mandate of the ACtHR is more limited than that of the Inter-American Commission because the ACtHR  has contentious jurisdiction over OAS Members States which have ratified the ACHR and specifically accepted the ACtHR’s contentious jurisdiction only. Where a Member State has not accepted the ACtHR’s contentious jurisdiction, the case can only be brought before the Inter-American Commission. Nonetheless, all OSA Members States can access the ACtHR’s advisory function and request for guidance on the interpretation and application of the relevant regional human rights instruments.


Decisions of the Inter-American Commission are accessible at their website.

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