This is the universal attribute inherent in all persons to be the holders of rights and obligations. It refers to the right to be recognized as a person, on equal terms, before the law. This is a right that should not be restricted, not even in exceptional cases. In other words, no one ceases to be a person before the law, even if their intellectual ability makes it difficult to understand what this means, because legal capacity and mental ability are different concepts and they do not depend on each other.
This is important because some people with intellectual disability require decision-making support to exercise their legal capacity. However, the need for support or reasonable accommodations should not be used as an argument to question a person’s legal capacity.
‘The denial of legal capacity to persons with disabilities has, in many cases, led to their being deprived of many fundamental rights, including the right to vote, the right to marry and found a family, reproductive rights, parental rights, the right to give consent for intimate relationships and medical treatment, and the right to liberty.’ (Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 2014, p. CG1).
Historically, legal means—including interdiction, guardianship, and restricted capacity (in Argentina)—have been used to limit or completely deny the legal capacity of people with disabilities. This gives guardians the absolute right to make all decisions in all areas of the person’s life.
Currently, these models are considered to be a human rights violation and a disregard for the inherent dignity and individual autonomy of people with disabilities.