United Nations

Convention on the Rights
of Persons with Disabilities

Distr.: General
19 May 2014
Original: English

Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Eleventh session
31 March–11 April 2014

General comment No. 1 (2014)
Article 12: Equal recognition before the law

I. Introduction
Equality before the law is a basic general principle of human rights protection and is
indispensable for the exercise of other human rights. The Universal Declaration of Human
Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights specifically guarantee
the right to equality before the law. Article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons
with Disabilities further describes the content of this civil right and focuses on the areas in
which people with disabilities have traditionally been denied the right. Article 12 does not
set out additional rights for people with disabilities; it simply describes the specific
elements that States parties are required to take into account to ensure the right to equality
before the law for people with disabilities, on an equal basis with others.
Given the importance of this article, the Committee facilitated interactive forums for
discussions on legal capacity. From the very useful exchange on the provisions of article 12
by experts, States parties, disabled persons’ organizations, non-governmental organizations,
treaty monitoring bodies, national human rights institutions and United Nations agencies,
the Committee found it imperative to provide further guidance in a general comment.
On the basis of the initial reports of various States parties that it has reviewed so far,
the Committee observes that there is a general misunderstanding of the exact scope of the
obligations of States parties under article 12 of the Convention. Indeed, there has been a
general failure to understand that the human rights-based model of disability implies a shift
from the substitute decision-making paradigm to one that is based on supported decisionmaking. The aim of the present general comment is to explore the general obligations
deriving from the various components of article 12.
The present general comment reflects an interpretation of article 12 which is
premised on the general principles of the Convention, as outlined in article 3, namely,
respect for the inherent dignity, individual autonomy — including the freedom to make
one’s own choices —, and independence of persons; non-discrimination; full and effective
participation and inclusion in society; respect for difference and acceptance of persons with
disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity; equality of opportunity; accessibility;
GE.14-03120 (E)


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