Human Rights and people with Mental Incapacity

What are human rights?

The development of effective legal and human service system frameworks relies heavily on an understanding of human rights and how these shape the principles and practices underpinning the law and service systems. 

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights states-

“Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, language, or any other status. We are all equally entitled to our human rights without discrimination.”

These rights and freedoms were documented many years ago in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

  • This means that Individuals who live with some form of mental incapacity are entitled enjoy similar rights to every other human beings.


“Universal human rights are often expressed and guaranteed by law, in the forms of treaties, customary international law , general principles and other sources of international law. International human rights law lays down obligations of Governments to act in certain ways or to refrain from certain acts, in order to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms of individuals or groups”.

  • This means that Individuals who live with some form of mental incapacity should have their rights promoted and protected in the same way as all others

The particular rights of people living with disabilities are recognised in the United Nations 2006 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.


Of particular importance is Article 12 Equal Recognition before the law

  • persons with disabilities have the right to recognition everywhere s persons before the law
  • persons with disabilities enjoy legal capacity on an equal basis with others in all aspects of life

Parties who agree to this Convention are expected to take appropriate measures to provide access to persons with disabilities to the support they require in exercising their legal capacity.

The OPA has participated in several projects which promote a rights based approach to working with people with disabilities.  Links to these project reports are listed here: