Webinar: COVID-19, institutionalisation of persons with disabilities and the right to truth


Thursday, 4 March 2021 – 15:00 – 16:30 (CET)

As attention on the impact of COVID-19 on persons in institutionalised settings increases, the European Network of National Human Rights Institutions (ENNHRI) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) will co-host a webinar on institutionalisation of persons with disabilities and the right to truth.

Institutionalisation based on impairment is a human rights violation. States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) are obligated to end institutionalisation and support independent living. Furthermore, institutionalisation in the context of COVID-19 may amount to a violation of the right to life and the highest attainable standard of health as institutionalised settings have proven to be places where COVID-19 infection and mortality rates are extremely high.

Truth and transparency regarding the impact of COVID-19 on persons with disabilities in institutionalised settings is lacking. Despite persistent calls from human rights mechanisms, DPOs, National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) and human rights defenders, States are still not providing reliable data, disaggregated by disability and age, on the situation of persons with disabilities in institutionalised settings and the impact of COVID-19 on them.

The current context presents an opportunity to explore what is happening within institutions as a right to truth issue. The right to truth has emerged as a legal concept at national, regional and international levels. The right places an obligation on the state to provide information to victims, their families and society as a whole about the circumstances surrounding serious violations of human rights. The right to truth is integral to the duty to investigate and therefore access to justice. As highlighted by the OHCHR, serious human rights violations against persons with disabilities are often met with impunity, denying persons with disabilities access to justice (A/HRC/37/25). Exposing the truth and illustrating the human rights impact of institutionalisation on persons with disabilities is integral to ensuring to legal and policy reform and guarantees of non-repetition.

National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), as State bodies independent from government with a broad human rights mandate, are ideally placed to monitor and advise State Parties in respecting their national, regional and international human rights obligations with respect to persons with disabilities. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, NHRIs have played a key role in promoting rights-based approaches. NHRIs’ independent monitoring of closed facilities was ever more important during the pandemic.[1]

The webinar seeks to explore the right to truth as a deinstitutionalisation advocacy tool. Specifically, institutionalisation as a ‘serious human rights violation’ with particular focus on the impact of COVID-19 on persons within institutionalised settings will be explored. The content of the right to truth and how this can be achieved in relation to institutionalised settings will be discussed, as will any best practices related to transparency and monitoring of institutionalised settings. The role of NHRIs in this context will also be explored.


Registration is required to join this event. Please click here to register.
Upon registration, a Webex link to the webinar will be sent to you.

Captioning and international sign interpretation will be provided throughout the webinar.

Themes and Speakers:

  • Introductory remarks
    Facundo Chavez, Human Rights and Disability Advisor at OHCHR
  • Lived experience of institutionalisation
    Bhargavi Davar, Transforming Communities for the Inclusion of Persons with Psychosocial Disabilities
  • The Right to Truth
    Fabián Salvioli, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence
  • Challenges to truth telling on institutionalised settings
    Eric Rosenthal, Founder and Executive Director of Disability Rights International
  • Challenges and impact of failure to realize the right to truth
    Kriti Sharma, Senior Researcher in the Disability Rights Division at Human Rights Watch
  • The role of NHRIs in truth telling and the limits of their mandate
    Ekaterine Skhiladze, Chair of the ENNHRI Working Group on the CRPD

This webinar is funded by the UNPRPD.




» Download the event flyer

Photo source: Mecklenburg County

[1]Rights of persons with disabilities during COVID-19: How have NHRIs responded?“, 18 December 2020, available at: <https://ennhri.org/news-and-blog/rights-of-persons-with-disabilities-during-covid-19-how-have-nhris-responded>. Last Accessed [24.02.2021].

Image description: picture of three women discussing over the content of a document. Logos of ENNHRI and OHCHR appear under the picture, the logo of the UNPRPD appear in the lower right side of the flyer.

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