Abandoned & Disappeared: Mexico’s Segregation and Abuse of Children and Adults with Disabilities

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DRI & CMDPDH Abandoned & Disappeared

Abandoned & Disappeared:

Mexico’s Segregation and Abuse

of Children and Adults with Disabilities
A Report by

Disability Rights International

and the

Comisión Méxicana

de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos
Primary authors:

Eric Rosenthal, JD, Executive Director, Disability Rights International, Board of Directors

Erin Jehn, JD, Staff Attorney, Disability Rights International

Sofía Galván, LLM, Director for Mexico and Central America, Disability Rights International

Investigative team/co-authors:

Laurie Ahern, President, Disability Rights International

Elizabeth Bauer, MA, Secretary of the Board of Directors, Disability Rights International

Will Hall, Freedom Center

Alison A. Hillman de Velásquez, JD, former director of Americas Programs, Disability Rights International

Ana Yeli Perez, JD, CMDPDH

Mercedes Torres, JD, Psychosocial Disability and Human Rights Project Coordinator, CMDPDH

JoséÁngel Valencia Orozco, Director, Mexico Advocacy Support Project, Disability Rights International

Elizabeth Zorrilla, JD, Disability Rights International, Mexico

Investigative team/mental health experts:

Dr. Willians Valentini, MD, consultant, Brazil

Dr. Robert Okin, MD, University of California School of Medicine, US

Karen Green McGowan, RN, CDDN, consultant, US

Translated by:

Sofía Galván

Ingmar Barrañon

Omar Estefan

Elizabeth Zorrilla
Disability Rights International

Disability Rights International (DRI - formerly Mental Disability Rights International), is an international human rights organization dedicated to the rights and full participation in society of people with disabilities. DRI documents abuses and promotes international awareness and oversight of the rights of people with disabilities. DRI trains and supports disability rights and human rights activists worldwide to promote rights enforcement and service-system reform.

DRI is based in Washington, DC with regional offices in Mexico and Serbia. DRI has investigated human rights conditions and collaborated with activists in more than two dozen countries of the Americas, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. DRI has authored or published reports on the United States (2010), Vietnam (1999, published by UNICEF), Serbia (2007), Argentina (2007), Romania (2006), Turkey (2005), Peru (2004), US Foreign Policy (2003, published by the US National Council on Disability), Kosovo (2002), Mexico (2000), Russia (1999, published by UNICEF), Hungary (1997), and Uruguay (2005). These reports have brought unprecedented international attention to the human rights of people with disabilities.


Laurie Ahern, President

Eric Rosenthal, JD, Executive Director

Adrienne Jones, Director of Finance and Administration

Dragana Ciric Milovanovic, Director, Regional Advocacy Support Center, Serbia

Zamira Duraku, Director, Kosovo Office

Sofía Galván Puente, LLM, Director for Mexico and Central America

Eric Mathews, Development Associate

Erin Jehn, JD, Staff Attorney

Mjellma Luma, Program Assistant, Kosovo

Lea Simokovic, OSI Human Rights Fellow, Serbia

José Ángel Valencia Orozco, Director, Mexico Advocacy Support Project

Board of Directors

John W. Heffernan, Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights, DRI Board Chair

Elizabeth Bauer, DRI Board Secretary

Ilene F. Cook, The Washington Post, DRI Board Treasurer

Holly Burkhalter, International Justice Mission

Patricia M. Wald, US Court of Appeals (ret.)

Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos

The Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos, A.C. (CMDPDH) is a nongovernmental organization with a 20 year history defending victims of human rights violations and promoting a culture in the field that serves to strengthen the rule of law. CMDPDH has set very important legal precedents in a variety of topics, including: military justice and due process through the case of General José Francisco Gallardo, transitional justice in the case of community leader Rosendo Radilla, who disappeared during the "dirty war" and was brought to the Interamerican Court of Human Rights; femicide through a program of strategic litigation in Chihuahua and Ciudad Juárez; the protection of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights through health cases in Chiapas and the presentation of diverse cases before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. It is noteworthy that the CMDPDH has a program of psychosocial support to victims and a communication and advocacy program, which allows us to address our cases in a comprehensive and multidisciplinary way.

In 2009, the CMDPDH in a joint project with Disability Rights International, began a series of visits to several psychiatric hospitals in the Mexican Republic in order to observe, document, inform and raise awareness on the situation of extreme vulnerability and systematic violation of persons with psychosocial disabilities’ (PCDPS) human rights, detained in these places. Based on the needs identified and given the importance of defending and promoting the rights of PCDPS, a new disability area within the CMDPDH was created to achieve through strategic litigation, national and international advocacy and building capacities, structural changes and significant progress in this populations attention paradigm shift, beyond the model of welfare and implementing a model of protection, respect and enforcement of human rights.

Board of Directors

Paulina Vega González (Chair)

Mariclaire Acosta Urquidi

Susana Erenberg Rotbar

Beatriz Solís Leeré

Miguel Concha Malo


General Director

Juan Carlos Gutiérrez Contreras

Defense Area

Humberto Guerrero Rosales (Director)

Ana Yeli Pérez Garrido

Mayra López Pineda

Lucía Chávez Vargas

Nancy López Pérez

Disability Area

Mercedes Torres Lagarde

Psicosocial Attention Area

Valeria Moscoso Urzúa

Advocacy Area

Sandra Suaste Aguilar

Research Area

Silvano Cantú Martínez

Institutional Develpoment Area

Paola García Nieto

Communication Area

Sergio Leñero Reveles (Director)

Leopoldo López Rizo
Administrative Area

Eduardo Macías Sánchez

Claudia Rosales López

Gissel Ramírez Polanco

This report is dedicated to:

Ilse Michelle Curiel Martinez. After allegedly suffering from abuse in her home at six years old, the authorities placed her in an institution. Ilse’s grandmother reported to us that she and other family members offered to take her in, but the authorities would not let the girl stay with them. When her parents went to look for Ilse at the Casita del Sur, where authorities placed her in June 2007, she had disappeared. After a long investigation, the authorities have not given the family any information about her whereabouts. Officials at the Human Rights Commission of the Federal District believe she was trafficked.

Ardelia Martinez Estrada, Ilse’s grandmother. She reported to us that she tried to stop Ilse’s placement by offering to take her in. She refuses to give up the search for her missing granddaughter.
The thousands of children and adults in Mexico’s institutions who have no opportunity to return to the community. The government of Mexico has no record as to how many people are detained in its psychiatric facilities, orphanages, shelters, and other institutions for people with disabilities.

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