Equal Rights and Non-Discrimination
Justice Facilitators: a double channel of support for persons with disabilities and justice officials
Persons with disabilities, particularly those with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities, have historically been denied equal access to justice based on questions about their capacity, resulting in discrimination and serious consequences for their life, rights, and freedom.
In the justice system in Mexico, persons with disabilities face many diverse obstacles to equal and fair participation: legal frameworks that limit their right to act on and exercise legal capacity; stigma about persons with disabilities by officials in the system; and lack of accessible information, among others. These barriers hinder the effective participation of persons with disabilities in judicial proceedings. Justice systems must adopt a human rights-based approach to disability and provide accommodations and support to ensure access to justice for persons with disabilities.
Since 2017, a multidisciplinary team of justice facilitators have been participating in criminal proceedings to eliminate barriers faced by persons with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities who participate as victims, witnesses, or defendants in Mexico.
Justice facilitators are impartial professionals who identify barriers and propose adjustments to ensure persons with disabilities participate equally and fairly in judicial proceedings. They serve as intermediaries between persons with disabilities and justice officials to dismantle obstacles in communication. Facilitators intervene only with the consent of the individual and focus on adequate adjustments based on their needs, with the objectives of maximizing their ability to understand the process, presenting their own point of view, and communicating with other participants.
- The project covered 2,193 hearings over four years, supporting people with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities to ensure their full, safe, fair, and effective participation in legal processes.
- Exposed justice officials to a human-rights approach to disability, increasing their knowledge of international standards.
- Persons with disabilities’ opinions and doubts are heard and answered in judicial proceedings.
- Promoted a new profession of justice facilitators through training certifications with national universities.
- Justice officials realize that the participation of persons with disabilities is possible, which reduces stigma and stereotypes, generating empathy.
Since 2017, the justice facilitators program has learned many lessons that contribute to ensuring access to justice for persons with disabilities. A report based on the organization’s experience is the next step that will serve as a starting point to promote the implementation of similar programs in other parts of Mexico, and potentially across Latin America.