Today, the world’s countries celebrate Human Rights Day, as it was established by the UN Assembly on December 10th 1948. Still, Romania has few reasons to celebrate, given the fact that human rights are rather a slogan and a challenge, than part of the social reality.
On this occasion, the Centre for Legal Resources wishes to draw attention to the systematic violations of human rights in over 700 specialized care institutions financed from the state’s budget, where more than 25.000 persons with mental disabilities live today.
Numbers tell the truth authorities try to hide
This month, the Centre for Legal Resources, together with the Centre for Media Investigations, have updated the “death map”, which shows that almost 5.000 persons with mental disabilities have died in institutions financed by the state with the aim to provide “rehabilitation, recovery and inclusion” services to the beneficiaries of the social care system. But perhaps the even more dramatic aspect is that the majority of deaths remain uninvestigated, contrary to the legal procedures which apply to the case when someone dies in an institution for people who are deprived of their liberties, as it is the case for institutionalized persons with mental disabilities. At the same time, there is serious doubt regarding certain causes of death (where they are specified), exactly because there is currently no independent body to investigate such cases.
Romania still hasn’t implemented an Independent Monitoring Mechanism
The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which Romania has ratified in 2010, compels the Romanian state to implement an independent system of unannounced visits in centers for persons with mental disabilities, in order to identify and prevent abuses by employees and authorities against the beneficiaries. According to the Convention, the mechanism should also include persons with disabilities, former beneficiaries of the social care system, together with independent experts. At the moment, the Center for Legal Resources is the only body conducting such unannounced visits, based on a protocol signed with the Ministry of Labor, Family, Social Protection and Elderly. After each visit, the CLR experts write and publish reports which they send to the authorities for further observations and recommendations. Unfortunately, in most cases, CLR’s recommendations don’t turn into concrete measures that could improve the beneficiaries’ situation. Moreover, despite the protocol, the access of the CLR teams in institutions for persons with mental disabilities has been refused many times, without any explanation, in some cases even by violating a definitive court decisions.
The Independent Monitoring Mechanism – voted UNANIMOUSLY by three Senate commissions
On December 8th 2015, the Senate’s Commission for Human Rights, Cults and Minorities, the Commission for Public Health and the Commission for Labor and Social Care voted UNANIMOUSLY on the draft law proposed by the Center for Legal Resources in December 2014 regarding the creation of an Independent Monitoring Mechanism. The law proposal grounded on the Convention will be sent to the Senate (the deciding chamber), with a recommendation for approval, meaning that Romania could soon have an independent authority that would respect all the Convention’s requirements and would be able to prevent abuses in institutions for persons with mental disabilities, by means of unannounced visits conducted by independent experts, including persons with mental disabilities, former beneficiaries of the social care system.
Still, this is only a partial victory, as the situation in such institutions will remain unchanged until the Senate casts the vote and until the law will be promulgated by the President. However, the Center for Legal Resources is optimistic about the senators’ vote, given the statements of some of the members of the three committees: “I think this idea is generous and I congratulate you on your involvement in trying to solve these problems. There are over 10.000 citizens asking for this and we must also take into account their voice. I am in favor of this bill!”, said Mr. Florian Popa, Senator in the Public Health Committee, referring to the petition launched by the Center for Legal Resources on the online campaigning platform de-clic.ro, which has gathered over 10.000 signatures supporting the law proposal, during the “Death Camps Next to You” campaign initiated by CLR. Besides the 10.000 signatures, there are also 3.000 post cards with photos from such “death camps”, signed by citizens from 8 major Romanian cities during an itinerant photo exhibition. The exhibition presents photos taken during 2014 and 2015 both by professional documentary photographers and residents of social care centers, which show the improper conditions and abuses against the beneficiaries. The petition can be signed here: http://facem.de-clic.ro/fara-lagare and it will be open until the final vote and till the law will be published in the Official Monitor.
For further information, access www.crj.ro/lagarele-de-langa-tine.
“The Death Camps Next to You” is a project initiated by the Center for Legal Resources and financed by the EEA Grants 2009-2014, within the NGO Fund in Romania. For official information about the EEA Grants and Norwegian funds, access www.eeagrants.ro.
Georgiana Pascu, Advocate for Dignity Programme Manager, Center for Legal Resources
firstname.lastname@example.org, (0729) 881 159