Mexico: authorities should modify domestic legislation to guarantee that persons with disabilities enjoy legal capacity in legal proceedings

The Mexican authorities should commit to a firm timeline for a consultative process with a view to ensuring effective review and modification of domestic legislation to guarantee that persons with disabilities have legal capacity to exercise their rights on an equal basis with others, the ICJ emphasized in a submission to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

The CRPD Committee will convene to consider Mexico’s second and third periodic reports during its 26th session between 7 and 25 March 2022.

“Despite repeated recommendations by the CRPD Committee, persons with disabilities in Mexico continue to be deprived of full and equal legal capacity to exercise their rights in legal proceedings, as required by article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)”, said Rocío Quintero M, ICJ Legal Adviser.

“Mexico has been bound by the CRPD for more than 15 years, which makes the performance of its obligation to review and modify the country’s laws to ensure compliance with the CRPD long overdue”, added Quintero.

In its submission to the CRPD Committee, the ICJ expresses concern that legal reforms are necessary in respect of both Mexico’s applicable criminal law framework and its civil laws establishing a guardianship system (régimen de interdicción). Within criminal proceedings, persons with disabilities remain regularly subjected to non-liability declarations (declaración de inimputabilidad), which ordinarily prevent them from participating in full and on an equal basis in criminal trials and other related legal processes. Despite being excluded from criminal liability in this manner, persons with disabilities may still be subjected to restrictions of their liberty, including confinement in health or psychiatric facilities for an indeterminate period.

The civil law system provides for a substitute-decision making system, as opposed to supported decision-making, meaning that decisions of a guardian (tutor) prevail over the desires and preferences of the person subjected to the guardianship. Consequently, persons with disabilities do not have the autonomy to make their own decisions. The ICJ’s submission also notes that the broader impact and influence of decisions of the Supreme Court relating to the failure of this guardianship system to comply with the CRPD should not be overestimated, in the absence of further measures, despite recent changes to Mexico’s system of judicial precedent.

“Despite Mexico’s unprecedented public acknowledgment of its failure to protect persons with disabilities and its apology to Mr. Arturo Medina-Vela in the aftermath of a decision of the CRPD Committee in that case, the situation remains one where they continued to be denied their right to exercise their legal capacity in legal proceedings. If Mexico truly wishes to make a practical difference to the lives of people like Mr. Medina-Vela, extensive legal reform must be made an urgent priority,” said Quintero.

The ICJ invites the CRPD Committee to address a range of recommendations to Mexican authorities, including that they:

  • Urgently prioritize and publicly commit to a timeline for undertaking the necessary legal reform to give full effect to the rights of persons with disabilities in terms of the CRPD.
  • Ensure that the process for the review and modification of the current legislation involves the full and meaningful participation of persons with disabilities and of the organizations that represent them, both domestically and internationally, as well as the participation of representatives of the executive, legislative and judicial branches.
  • Adopt measures, including the provision of training, to assist all judicial officers in all courts throughout Mexico in regard to Mexico’s obligations in terms of the CRPD.

The submission is available in English here.


The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) has worked to assist States in the implementation of their obligations under the Convention. To this effect, the ICJ participated in the drafting of and formally endorsed the International Principles and Guidelines on Access to Justice for Persons with Disabilities published by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with disabilities in August 2020, and continues to promote the Principles globally. The ICJ also participates as active member of a global network of organizations advocating for legal reform to improve equal recognition of legal capacity and access to justice of persons with disabilities worldwide.

The ICJ’s submission, which are grounded in the provisions of the CRPD and the International Principles and Guidelines on Access to Justice for Persons with Disabilities, follow on from letters sent by the ICJ to executive, legislative and judicial authorities in Mexico in 2021, requesting information on measures taken and planned to give effect to Mexico’s CRPD obligations in respect of access to justice.

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