May 12

Urgent appeal to the United Nations: Immediate protections for people exposed to COVID-19 inside Guatemala disability institution

Hundreds of people at the Federico Mora psychiatric hospital, exposed to staff infected with COVID-19, are locked into the facility, which has been sealed from outside access. Disability Rights International (DRI) calls for immediate government intervention to test patients, provide care to those exposed, and immediately remove anyone who has not yet contracted the virus. DRI further calls on Guatemala to stop plans, reported in Guatemala’s press, to dump new patients into the facility who were recently deported from the United States and are known to be infected with COVID-19.
“If protective measures are not taken immediately, large numbers of people detained at the facility face exposure, sickness, or death in the coming days,” says the urgent appeal to the United Nations.

Hundreds of people at the Federico Mora disability institution, exposed to staff infected with COVID-19, are locked into the facility, which has been sealed from outside access. Disability Rights International (DRI) calls for immediate government intervention to test detainees, provide care to those exposed, and immediately remove anyone who has not yet contracted the virus. DRI further calls on Guatemala to stop plans, reported in Guatemala’s press, to dump additional people with disabilities into the facility who were recently deported from the United States and are known to be infected with COVID-19.

“If protective measures are not taken immediately, large numbers of people detained at the facility face exposure, sickness, or death in the coming days,” says the urgent appeal to the United Nations.

DRI is joined by the main disability rights organization of Guatemala, the Colectivo Vide Independiente, along with 50 local, regional, and international organizations in appealing to the UN Special Rapporteur on Disability, Catalina Devandas, for international action to protect people at the facility. Federico Mora is already the subject of a case before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States, which has called on Guatemala to protect detainees from violence, abuse, and deprivation of medical care.

“Even before this crisis, we have known that Federico Mora is a dumping ground for people with any kind of disability. Even their own doctors told us most people had no mental health need to be there. The facility is dangerous and provides no meaningful treatment.” said Priscila Rodriguez, Associate Director of Disability Rights International. “Guatemala needs to take immediate action to protect its most vulnerable citizens.”

“Our country can do better than this,” says Silvia Quan, President of the Colectivo Vide Independiente. “No one should be exposed to the virus or denied medical care just because they have a disability.”

“What is happening at Federico Mora is happening around the world wherever children or adults with disabilities are locked up in congregate settings – psychiatric hospitals, orphanages, social care homes,” said Eric Rosenthal, Executive Director of Disability Rights International. “In a global pandemic, there’s no time to lose in getting people safely out of these facilities before they are exposed.”

Read the full appeal on DRI’s website here