Free access to justice means that everyone has the right to apply to the justice system to defend their rights, freedoms and legitimate interests and that they have the right to a fair trial and to have their case resolved within a reasonable time.
In the context of extremely limited access to justice in Romania for people with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities, the Centre for Legal Resources, within the framework of the Advocacy for Dignity programme, in partnership with the Public Ministry – Prosecutor’s Office of the High Court of Cassation and Justice, has launched the ADAPTJUST Project – Accessible Justice for People with Disabilities.
AdaptJust addresses these issues in the light of the implementation of the European Court of Human Rights judgments on the rights of persons with disabilities. These rulings require Romania to take the necessary steps to ensure that the right to fair justice for people with disabilities is respected.
Here are the main ECtHR rulings to which AdaptJust’s activities contribute:
CLR on behalf of Valentin Câmpeanu v. Romania, 2014
Mr Valentin Câmpeanu, a young Roma man with intellectual disabilities, infected with HIV, TB and hepatitis, was transferred between two residential social care centres and then abandoned in the yard of the Psychiatric and Safety Measures Hospital in Poiana Mare, Dolj County. A few hours before his death was pronounced, Mr Câmpeanu was found by the CLR, locked alone in a room, a warehouse of old furniture.
Mr Câmpeanu’s institutional history, as reconstructed by the CLR in documenting the case, revealed a long series of abuses against him (detailed in the Chronology of Events). After being transferred to several orphanages throughout his childhood, after being detected as HIV positive, then diagnosed with “profound mental retardation” and other HIV-related illnesses, he was successively placed from a social institution to a medical one, without adequate representation and assistance, when he came of age. These transfers were made through decisions that did not involve him, were not communicated to him and which he had no opportunity to challenge.
On 20 February 2004, the CLR went to the hospital in Poiana Mare and ascertained Mr Câmpeanu’s condition. The report of the CLR’s visit showed that the young man was alone in an unheated room, wearing only a pyjama top and in a bed without underwear; he could not feed himself and could not go to the toilet on his own; the hospital staff refused to assist him, fearing that he might become infected with HIV, so the patient was fed only glucose. The CLR concluded that Mr Câmpeanu did not receive even basic care.
In the report, the CLR stated that it had requested the immediate transfer of Mr Câmpeanu to the Craiova Infectious Diseases Hospital, the only hospital capable of providing the young man with adequate treatment; the hospital director, however, rejected the request, considering that the patient “is not an urgent case, but a social case” and that, in any case, he would not have survived the journey.
Mr Câmpeanu died on the evening of 20 February 2004. According to the death certificate issued on 23 February 2004, the immediate cause of death was cardio-respiratory failure. The certificate also listed HIV infection as the “initial morbid condition” and “mental retardation” as “another significant morbid condition”.
The ECtHR found that Mr Câmpeanu was placed in inadequately equipped medical institutions to treat his medical conditions, transferred from one unit to another without the appropriate diagnosis and the failure of the authorities to provide him with the necessary antiretroviral treatment.
⚖️ Violation of Article 2 (right to life) and Article 13 (access to justice).
⚖️ EXCERPTS FROM THE ECHR JUDGMENT
“Where such a right of fundamental importance as the right to life or the prohibition of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment is involved, Article 13 requires, (…) thorough and effective investigations leading to the identification and punishment of the persons responsible, including effective access of the complainant to the investigation procedure. If the authorities are criticised for failing to protect individuals against the actions of private individuals, Article 13 cannot always fail to imply that the authorities are under an obligation to assume the burden of investigating the allegations. However, the victim or his or her family must have a mechanism to establish, where appropriate, the responsibility of State officials or bodies for acts or omissions involving violations of Convention rights..” (149)
“In the present case, the Court has already established that Mr Câmpeanu’s vulnerability, combined with the authorities’ failure to apply the law in force and to provide him with adequate legal assistance, were factors which strengthened the legal basis for its decision to grant the JRC, exceptionally, standing (supra, para. 112). Without the intervention of the CLR, Mr Câmpeanu’s case would never have been brought to the attention of the authorities, whether national or international. However, the Court observes that the initiatives taken by the CLR on behalf of Mr Câmpeanu are sui generis in nature, all the more so as they did not fall within the existing legal framework on the rights of persons with a mental disability, since that framework was not capable of meeting the specific needs of such persons, in particular in order to provide them with a concrete possibility of having access to the remedies available. In fact, the Court has previously found that the respondent State violated Article 3 or Article 5 of the Convention, in view of the lack of an adequate remedy available to persons with disabilities or as a result of the fact that they had only limited access to such remedies as might have been available.” (151)
„(…)The Court has already found the defendant State liable under Article 2 for failing to protect Mr Câmpeanu’s life while he was taken into care by the national medical authorities and for failing to conduct an effective investigation into the circumstances leading to his death. The Government has not referred to any other procedure which could have allowed the authorities’ responsibility to be established in an independent, public and effective manner. The Court further considers that the possibilities put forward by the Government as evidence of the existence of adequate remedies under Article 13 (supra, paragraph 125) are either insufficient or ineffective, given their limited impact and the lack of procedural safeguards.” (152)
„In the light of the above considerations, the Court finds that the respondent State has not put in place an adequate scheme to provide redress to persons with mental disabilities who consider themselves victims under Article 2 of the Convention. More specifically, the Court finds a violation of Article 13 in conjunction with Article 2 of the Convention, as the State has not guaranteed and implemented a legal framework which would have allowed an independent authority to examine the allegations of violation of Mr Câmpeanu’s right to life.” (153)
READ HERE in English and in Romanian
⏳ CHRONOLOGY OF EVENTS
- 2003-2004: Lon reaching the age of 18, Mr Câmpeanu’s placement order is revoked and he is transferred to the Cetate Medico-Social Unit. Several medical and social institutions refuse the transfer because of his HIV infection.
- 13.02.2004: Mr. Câmpeanu is transferred from the Cetate Medico-Social Unit (UMSC) to the Poiana Mare Neuropsychiatric Hospital (SPM).
- 19.02.2004: Mr. Câmpeanu refuses food and is not given medication.
- 20.02.2004: the representative of the CLR visits the SPM unannounced and on the evening of 20 February finds that the young man is alone in an unheated room, wearing only a pyjama top and in a bed without underwear; he could not feed himself and could not go to the toilet on his own; the hospital staff refuses to assist him, fearing HIV infection. CLR requests emergency transfer to a hospital in Craiova.
- 20.02.2004: Mr Câmpeanu dies during the night, after the departure of the CLR representative.
- 21.02.2004: CLR and Amnesty, International Secretariat in London draft an urgent appeal signed by several heads of state to the Romanian authorities to remedy the situation.
- 23.02.2004: CLR denounces the act of negligent homicide to the Public Prosecutor’s Office.
- 15.06.2004: CLR formulates two other criminal complaints: one to the Prosecutor’s Office of the Craiova Court and the other to the Prosecutor’s Office of the Dolj Court, requesting the opening of a criminal investigation into the circumstances of Mr Câmpeanu’s death.
- 31.08.2004: the Public Prosecutor’s Office of the Dolj Court opens a criminal case at the request of CLR.
- 14.09.2004: The Craiova Institute of Forensic Medicine draws up a forensic report.
- 2.02.2005: Forensic report following the exhumation and autopsy of 22.10.2004.
- 19.07.2005: the Public Prosecutor’s Office of the Dolj Court orders that no criminal proceedings be initiated, considering that the medical treatment administered to the patient was adequate and that his death was not violent, but the consequence of a complication suffered during the evolution of the HIV syndrome. This decision is quashed and the investigation is reopened and closed twice more.
- 20.07.2006: The Disciplinary Committee of the College of Physicians decides that no disciplinary action should be taken against SPM staff.
- 4.04.2008: The Court of Dolj admits the appeal, quashes the judgment of the Calafat District Court and rejects the complaint lodged by the CLR against the resolution not to initiate criminal proceedings of 30.03.2007.
- 4.01.2012: The independent expertise concludes that Mr Câmpeanu’s death at the SPM was the consequence of a “serious medical error”, that the treatment of HIV infection and opportunistic infections did not comply with international standards and medical deontology, which also applies to the counselling and treatment given to the patient for his intellectual disability; moreover, the disciplinary procedure before the College of Physicians was deficient and vitiated by negligence, given the absence of important medical documents (Dr Adriaan van Es, assisted by Anca Boeriu, IFHHRO).
Intervention of the third party, Mental Disability Advocacy Centre: “People with intellectual and psycho-social disabilities are often locked in institutions, isolated from society, unaware of their rights and without protection mechanisms”
Third party intervention, Human Rights Watch: “The case raises critical questions about the treatment of people with disabilities and HIV, including the link between disability, HIV and children’s rights”
Parascineti c. Romania, 2012
Mr. M. Parascineti referred to the ECtHR the inhuman and degrading treatment to which he was subjected during his involuntary internment in the psychiatric ward of the Municipal Hospital of Sighetu Marmației.
The Court held that such conditions which are inappropriate for any individual deprived of liberty are even more inappropriate for a person such as the applicant, who has been diagnosed with mental health problems and, consequently, in need of specialised treatment as well as minimum standards of hygiene.
⚖️ Violation of Article 3 (against torture).
⏳ EVENT CHRONOLOGY
- 29.06.2005: Mr. Parascineti is admitted to Baia Mare County Hospital, Endocrinology Department.
- 5 – 13.07.2005: Mr Parascineti develops acute psychosis and is transferred to the psychiatric ward of Sighetu Marmației Municipal Hospital (5 July). He is discharged on 13 July 2005. Mr Parascineti complains about the conditions during his stay, describing them as worse than those in a prison: dozens of patients, including some with scabies and lice, were admitted to the same room, he stayed in the same bed with one or two patients; the smell coming from the toilets at the end of the room was unbearable, patients were not allowed to enter the courtyard of the building; all 70-100 patients in the ward were washing at the same time in two showers.
- 07.2005: the plaintiff protests with a hunger strike in front of the Ministry of Health, demanding a review of the disability degree and denouncing the abusive character and hospital conditions.
- 20.02.2006: Letter to the Maramureș Public Health Directorate (DSP) regarding the above and request for a reply regarding his application to the ECtHR.
- 22.02.2006: Request to the Maramureș Tribunal on freedom of access to information of public interest, asking the authorities to respond to requests relating to psychiatric internment.
- 8.03.2006: Letter from the DSP reminding the complainant that he had undergone medical tests required by his state of health and sending the document provided in response by the municipal hospital.
- 04.2006: Criminal complaint against police officers and staff of the municipal hospital, authorities not returning his personal belongings following transfer.
- 29.05.2006: The public prosecutor’s office of the Maramureș Court orders that no criminal proceedings be initiated in relation to the alleged facts.
- 31.05.2006: Maramureș Tribunal rejects the complaint of 22 February 2006.
B. c. Romania (nr. 2), 2013
Mrs M.B. referred her psychiatric admissions and the placement of her minor children to the ECtHR. Since 2000, the applicant has been the subject of numerous admissions to hospital or psychiatric wards, often at the request of the police.
The police asked the hospital to admit the applicant on the grounds that she had been “found malnourished, living in an unheated room and without any material support”, stating without factual details that she had “antisocial behaviour”. The decision of involuntary admission was not confirmed by a medical committee of three doctors and was not made known to the applicant. The applicant also claims that her two children, who were minors at the time, were taken away and placed in residential homes because of the poverty in which the family was living, considering that their rights had been violated and complaining about the absence of adequate protective measures.
⚖️ Violation of Article 8 (right to privacy).
⏳ EVENT CHRONOLOGY
⏳ Chronology of events (ref. to abusive admission to hospital/psychiatric ward)
- 2000 – 2007: nine admissions under police escort in the psychiatric ward of the Bacău County Emergency Hospital and at the “Socola” Psychiatric Clinical Hospital
- 24.08.2006: Mrs M.B. complains that she was the victim of an attempted rape.
- 2008: Mrs M.B. is admitted four times to the Chronic Psychiatric Ward, totalling 4 months of hospitalization.
- 2009: Mrs M.B. is admitted six times and spent a total of ten and a half months in the Chronic Psychiatric Ward of Buhuși Hospital.
- 2010: Mrs M.B. is admitted seven times, spending eleven months in hospital.
The complainant claims that she was “permanently hospitalised” by the authorities.
⏳ Chronology of events (re: abusive placement of children):
- 12.09.2000: Mrs M.B.’s mother requests DGASPC Bacău to admit the applicant to a psychiatric hospital.
- 12.09.2000: The children are taken to a placement centre, with the written consent of the grandmother.
- 15.09.2000: Mrs M.B. is admitted to a psychiatric hospital.
- 26.09.2000: Bacău Child Protection Commission orders the institutionalisation of children.
- 5.12.2000: Minors are transferred to another centre.
- 14.12.2005 / 27.01.2006: Bacău Court orders the maintenance of the children’s placement order and the delegation of parental rights to the centre director.
- 17.08.2007: Two judgments of the Bacău Tribunal for the transfer of children to another centre on the grounds of abuse by their mother.
E.B. c. Romania, 2019
Ms E.B. has referred to the ECtHR the Romanian state’s failure and inefficiency to investigate her rape allegations and protect her from traumatic experiences. She also complained about the deprivation of her procedural rights by the authorities. The Court concluded that the authorities had failed to fulfil their positive obligations to effectively enforce a criminal law system that punishes all forms of rape and sexual abuse and to ensure adequate protection of physical integrity.
⚖️ Violation of Article 3 (against torture) and Article 8 (right to privacy).
⏳ EVENT CHRONOLOGY
- 20.05.2008: Mrs. E.B. is the victim of a rape at knifepoint. After the act, the victim is again threatened not to talk about what happened. On the way to the police station to file a criminal complaint, she meets I.S., who advised her not to say anything. The police station was closed.
- 21.05.2008: The complainant lodged a criminal complaint with the police, accompanied by her husband. On the same day, the assailant (T.F.S.) was heard.
- 22.05.2008: Mrs E.B. goes to the Institute of Forensic Medicine in Târgu Mureș to be examined. The report shows the presence of two lesions on the right arm and no “lesions specific to rape” in the genital area.
- 3.06.2008: The complainant gives a second statement to the police, mentioning the state of shock she felt during the assault and the fear and suffering she is currently experiencing. She asked for protection for herself and her family.
- 9.07.2008: Hearing of I.S.
- 07-08.2009: T.F.S. is sought at home for hearing, but is not found.
- 21.01.2009: the Public Prosecutor’s Office of the Târnăveni District Court (PJ) decides not to initiate criminal proceedings as the acts committed by T.F.S. did not constitute an offence.
- 22.02.2009: the complainant lodges a complaint against the prosecutor’s order with the chief prosecutor of the Târnăveni PJ, reiterates the facts and complains that, after the police took her initial statement, they did not inform her of her rights as a victim.
- 24.02.2009: the Chief Public Prosecutor rejects the complainant’s complaint, finding that the available evidence did not suggest that T.F.S. used physical force to have sexual intercourse.
- 20.03.2009: Mrs E.B., represented by her husband, complains about the prosecutors’ resolutions before the Târnăveni Court.
- 6.05.2009: Târnăveni Court admits the complainant’s complaint and decided to return the case to the public prosecutor’s office in order to resume the criminal proceedings against T.F.S.
- 15.10.2009: The Prosecutor of the Târnăveni PJ appeals against the sentence of the Târnăveni Court of 6.05.2009.
- 11.02.2010: the Court of Mures admits the appeal of PJ Târnăveni and definitively rejected the complaint of Mrs. E.B.
R.D. și I.M.D. c. Romania, 2021
The plaintiffs complained of involuntary admission and forced psychiatric treatment in the hospital in Zalău. The Court noted that the forensic psychiatric reports were drawn up on 04.10.2011, i.e. more than three years before the measure ordering their internment.
The lack of a recent medical assessment led the ECHR to conclude that the applicants’ detention did not comply with the Convention, and the lack of detailed reasoning in the judgments of the courts that ordered their detention did not allow it to be sufficiently established that the applicants posed a risk to themselves or others.
⚖️ Violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) and Article 8 (right to respect for private life).
⏳ EVENT CHRONOLOGY
- 27.09.2011: Mr. R.D. and Mrs. I.M.D., badged by police officers; they refuse and apparently hit a police officer. Criminal investigation for indecent assault and disturbing the peace.
- 3.10.2011: the Public Prosecutor’s Office of the Șimleul Silvaniei Court requests a forensic psychiatric expertise of the complainants (Zalău Hospital).
- 4.10.2011: Expert opinion finds persistent delusional disorders, impaired discernment, outpatient treatment.
- 11.10.2011: PJ Șimleul Silvaniei order establishes that plaintiffs are not criminally liable.
- 6.06.2013: The Sălaj Court orders psychiatric treatment on the basis of the expert reports of 4.10.2011. Bureau for the execution of sentences Șimleul Silvaniei Court: appeal against the execution of the decision of 06.06.2013 to replace the measure of compulsory treatment with that of internment.
- 10.11.2014: Judgment of the Șimleul Silvaniei Court orders compulsory internment as a safety measure.
- 30.12.2014: Appeal dismissed, plaintiffs placed in psychiatric hospital against their will.
- 23.02.2017: Judgment of the Court of Șimleul Silvaniei ref. the placing under interdiction of Mrs I.M.D. (guardian, mother).
- 11.01.2017: Judgment of Șimleul Silvaniei Court ref. the interdiction of Mr. R.D. (guardian, deputy mayor).
!!! The applicants are still being held against their will in a psychiatric hospital.
N. c. Romania, 2017
Mr N. referred to the ECtHR the unlawful and unjustified confinement for more than 16 years in psychiatric hospitals, as well as the lack of information about the reasons for his confinement and the impossibility of obtaining compensation for his deprivation of liberty. Mr N. also complained about the lack of procedural safeguards for the supervision of the lawfulness of his detention.
Although he underwent several psychosocial assessments during his lengthy detention in the hope of release, Mr N. calls them “a travesty of justice”, considering through the prism of the reports that his detention was unlawful, each of which was contaminated by the information in the first medical report which was misinterpreted to mean his initial deprivation of liberty.
⚖️ Violation of Article 5.1 (right to liberty and security) and Article 5.4 (right to appeal).
⏳ EVENT CHRONOLOGY
- 29.01.2001: Following the publication of an article in the national press, the police open a criminal investigation in the name of Mr. N. on charges of incest and corruption of minors. He is heard the same day.
- 30.04.2001: Mr N. is heard by a prosecutor, who orders him to be admitted to a psychiatric hospital the same day for assessment of his capacity for discernment. The decision is based on the previous diagnosis of paranoid affective psychosis.
- 2.11.2001: A forensic report states that the complainant suffers from chronic paranoid schizophrenia and lacks discernment. Recommends compulsory medical treatment under Article 113 of the Criminal Code.
- 27.02.2002: Prosecution for incest discontinued for lack of evidence. The public prosecutor’s office also closes the proceedings on the charge of corruption of minors in the light of the lack of discernment revealed by the forensic report, handing the case over to a court with jurisdiction to confirm the preventive measure of medical detention.
- 22.04.2002: the Court of Sector 6 orders compulsory medical detention on the basis of the forensic report of 2001. Mr N. does not attend the hearing and is not represented in court.
- 30.01.2001 – 20.01.2003: Mr N. is admitted to Obregia Psychiatric Hospital.
- 21.01.2003 – 29.01.2006: Mr N. is transferred to Poiana Mare Psychiatric Hospital.
- 07.2007: A medical committee draws up a report re-evaluating compulsory admission, taking into account the 2001 report; orders compulsory medical admission to be maintained.
- 11.09.2007: Mr N., heard by the Buzău Court, assisted by a lawyer, requests to be discharged.
- 11.09.2007: The Buzău Tribunal decides to maintain his detention, on the basis of the criminal charges of 2001 and the medical report of July 2007.
- 2008: Mr N. takes cognisance of the decision and is medicolegal re-examined. He lodges an appeal.
- 19.12.2008: Buzău Court rejects the appeal.
- 13.10.2008: Tribunal Buzău maintains the medical admission, based on the assessment of May 2008.
- 2010 / 2013 / 2014 / 2015 / 2016 : Forensic examinations for reassessment of medical internment; courts decided to maintain it. Mr N. contested each time.
- 25.01.2017: A medico-legal report recommends replacing the measure of compulsory internment with that of compulsory medical treatment.
- 21.02.2017: Hearing of Mr N. at the Buzău Court.
- 21.02.2017: Tribunal Buzău decides to replace the measure of compulsory internment with that of compulsory medical treatment until Mr. N.
- 7.03.2017: Mr N., represented by a lawyer, asks to remain in the psychiatric hospital until his social situation is clarified.
- 8.03.2017: the lawyer sends a letter to the psychiatric hospital “Săpoca” recommending the reintegration of Mr. N. in the community and not his institutionalization in a residential centre.
- 9.03.2017: Mr N. is transferred to the ward for patients with chronic conditions.
- 14.03.2017: the Director of the Săpoca Hospital asks the DGASPC to assist Mr N. in accordance with the final decision ordering the compulsory treatment measure.
‘s full recovery.
⚖️ Decision of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on the execution of the N. v. Romania judgment 14-16.09.2021: the Committee, at its 1411th sitting on the Supervision of the execution of judgments of the ECtHR, considers the N. v. Romania judgment and decides, inter alia:
- stresses the systemic nature of the violations found and the high risk of their repetition, while underlining their humanitarian aspect. The Committee expressed its concern at the prolonged failure of the authorities to provide information on any concrete measures taken or envisaged to be taken to address the shortcomings revealed by this Court judgment;
- The Committee calls on the authorities to submit, by 15.12.2021 at the latest, an action plan with appropriate measures to remedy the shortcomings, with a clear and prompt deadline for implementation; it also stresses Romania’s unconditional obligation to comply fully, effectively and promptly with the Court’s judgments;
- Decides to review the case at its 2022 meeting and requests the Secretariat, in the absence of the requested action plan, to prepare a draft Interim Resolution for consideration at its 2022 meeting.
⚖️ Interim Resolution CM/ResDH(2022) 49 adopted by the Committee of Ministers in execution of the “N. v. Romania” judgment 09.03.2022:
Given the failure of the Romanian authorities to provide the requested information on measures requested by the Court and the Committee in the execution of the N. v. Romania judgment, the Committee reiterates its previous requests and insists on strengthening Romania’s dialogue with the Committee in the process of monitoring the execution of this judgment and strongly encourages the State to engage in high-level consultations with the Secretariat on how this can be achieved. Gives Romania the deadline for submitting the requested information: 01.09.2022.
Reiterating its deep concern that the authorities have not provided information on any concrete measures taken or envisaged to remedy the shortcomings highlighted by the judgment with regard to decisions to extend placements in psychiatric hospitals as security measures and to safeguards against arbitrary or unlawful deprivation of liberty in this context;
Stressing the obligation of each State, in accordance with Article 46(1) of the Convention, to submit to final judgments of the Court in any case to which it is a party fully, effectively and promptly;
URGED the authorities, at the appropriate level, to urgently take all necessary action to ensure that the measures necessary to put an end to and ensure non-recurrence of violations are defined and implemented without delay;
ENCOURAGED the authorities to strengthen their dialogue with the Committee in the process of monitoring the implementation of this judgment and strongly ENCOURAGED them to engage in high-level consultations with the Secretariat on how this can be achieved;
REQUESTED the authorities to inform the Committee of the planned measures and the timetable set for their implementation without delay and in any case no later than 1 September 2022.