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This Article examines the human rights of persons with mental disabilities and the application and development of these rights by the various international and regional systems that have been established to protect human rights. An international system of human rights with universal application has been developed under the auspices of the United Nations. Regional human rights systems have applied additional human rights protections to their respective geographic regions. Both the international and regional systems have addressed the human rights of persons with mental disabilities through treaties, declarations, and thematic resolutions. Moreover, regional institutions have incrementally formulated a body of law that protects the human rights of persons with mental disabilities. These international systems, documents, institutions, and legal rulings have collectively spurred the development of tangible and recognizable human rights standards at the international and regional levels; they have also brought to light, and in some cases put an end to, ongoing human rights violations targeting persons with mental disabilities. Further, the legal precedent and public pressure created by this body of international law has encouraged domestic governments to apply human rights principles to their policies affecting mentally disabled individuals at the national and sub-national level. This Article devotes particular attention to the well-developed jurisprudence within the European system for the protection of human rights. This regional human rights system has advanced a rich and nuanced body of law protecting the human rights of persons with mental disabilities.

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63 MD. L. Rev. 20-121 (2004)