We urge the Romanian Prime Minister to activate the UNCRPD Coordination Mechanism concerning the rights of persons with disabilities
Serious human rights violations and abuses: this is what we encountered in the social care homes we visited in the last months of 2022. In detail, we discuss them in our monitoring reports: testimonials from residents regarding their life, the treatment they receive, their institutional past, their future hopes. The conclusion was unanimous: all residents hope to be free one day.
Three key investigations into what goes on behind the closed doors of institutions have emerged in the last two months. A broad look at the same three social care homes can be read here. A wide range of abuses, irregularities, dozens of people whose rights didn’t matter for a second. A life put “on hold”, even though Romania is obliged to prevent institutionalisation, the message from the European Commission to the Romanian government being to stop investing European funds in small and large institutions.
We appealed to the authorities. I have publicly called on numerous occasions for an investigation into the causes of the serious violations of the rights of all people detained in the social care homes. We have also sent addresses to the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, the National Authority for the Protection of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (ANPDPD), the Directorates for Social Work and Child Protection (DGASPC) of Ilfov County and Bucharest, 3, the National Agency for Inspection and Social Benefits (ANPIS) and the Ministry of Health, enclosing the monitoring reports of the CLR at the end of which there are specific requests to each of the institutions with competence in the matter, and the investigations carried out by the journalists of the Centrul de Investigații Media and Buletin de București.
We note with concern that no authority is taking responsibility for investigating the causes that led to the violations reported by the CLR and consequently for preventing future abuses. In these circumstances, CLR has addressed the Romanian Government with the request to take over the investigation and prevention of further human rights violations in social care homes, asylums for the elderly, medical-social units and psychiatric hospitals. We hope that the Prime Minister will not redirect the complaint to the Ministry of Labour or the Ministry of Family, Youth and Equal Opportunities. We publish below the complaint and the authorities’ responses.
Dear Prime Minister Nicolae Ciucă,
Considering the following:
Ø Romania’s numerous condemnations at the ECHR regarding the violation of the rights of persons with disabilities (sanctioning extremely serious situations such as – tying up, lack of effective access to justice, inefficient investigation of the causes of death, arbitrary deprivation of liberty, the auctioning on the internet by local public authorities of “lots of people” and leaving them defenceless in the care of private economic operators) as well as the obligation of the Romanian Government to implement the ECHR rulings on the rights of persons with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities by drawing up and submitting to the Committee of Ministers in Strasbourg a National Action Plan for the prevention of inhuman and degrading conditions and ill-treatment in psychiatric hospitals and social care home;
The reports of the Ilfov County CLR, which complement the hundreds of complaints submitted to the public authorities and the courts over the last two decades, serious human rights violations in these deprivation institutions, namely:
- on 7 September 2022 – at the Care and Assistance Home for Adults with Disabilities “Sfântul Gabriel cel Viteaz” – Voluntari, jud. Ilfov;
- on 7 September 2022 and 1 November 2022 respectively at the Care and Assistance Home for Adults with Disabilities “Armonia” – Afumați, jud. Ilfov;
- from September to November 2022 at the Residential Care and Assistance Home for Dependent Persons “Casa Cora” – Voluntari, jud. Ilfov;
Following which several monitoring reports were drawn up, containing a series of irregularities and violations of the rights of persons with disabilities observed on the spot.
Although all the institutions involved or competent in the matter were notified of the irregularities found and we expressly requested that measures be taken to protect the rights of institutionalised persons – although the legal deadline expired, either we did not receive any response or the responses received were completely evasive, superficial or unfounded, revealing situations diametrically opposed to those found by the CLR team on the spot. We would like to point out that we have also filed criminal complaints on the issues observed, with the Buftea Prosecutor’s Office.
Responses (RO version):
- NATIONAL AGENCY FOR BENEFITS AND SOCIAL INSPECTION (ANPIS – Agenția Națională pentru Plăți și Inspecție Socială) – received on 27.02.2023 Full response Casa Cora ANPIS, Full response Armonia ANPIS
This service is licensed to operate as a residential care and assistance center for other categories of dependent persons, code 8790 CR-PD-I. Being a person with disabilities does not exclude the fact that such a person can benefit from a service intended for dependent people. Being certified in the disability system is a guarantee for the acquisition of rights related to this status and not a limitation of the right to choose the place where the disabled person wants to live. In relation to these, we emphasize the fact that the “Casa Cora” social service is not part of the institutional social protection system intended for adults with disabilities, the services of this center not being contracted by a DGASPC;
Regarding the request addressed to our institution to “verify the legality of the transfer procedures and the presence of people with intellectual/psychosocial disabilities” in this center, we inform you that social inspectors from the National Agency of Benefits and Social Inspection Ilfov have carried out an unannounced inspection in between 20.02.-23.02.2023, files of the beneficiaries admitted to the center being requested. Thus, it was found that their admission procedure was carried out in accordance with the requirements of MMSP Order no. 29/2019, Annex 1 (admission application, admission decision, social service provision contract, identity documents of the beneficiaries/ caretakers/ guardians, curator, proof of income, sentences appointing guardians, disability classification certificates, etc.).Excerpt from the reply received on 27.02.2023
- NATIONAL AUTHORITY FOR THE RIGHTS OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES – received on 15.02.2023 Full response Casa Cora ANPDPD, Full response Sfântul Gabriel cel Viteaz ANPDPD
Considering the fact that “Casa Cora” social care home is a social service intended for the elderly classified as “residential care and assistance center for other categories of dependent persons”, which is not within the competence of the ANPDPD, we inform you that we have forwarded your notification to the Social Services Policy Directorate of the Ministry of Labor and Social Solidarity, with the request to send you an answer regarding the measures taken.Excerpt from the reply received on 15.02.2023
- MINISTRY OF LABOUR AND SOCIAL PROTECTION, received on 6.03.2023 Full response Casa Cora
The aspects presented above, as well as the need to fully comply with the provisions of Annex no. 1 of the Order of the Minister of Labor and Social Protection no. 29/2019 for the approval of the minimum quality standards for the accreditation of social services intended for the elderly, the homeless, young people who have left the child protection system and other categories of adults in difficulty, as well as the services provided in the community, the services provided in the integrated system and the social canteens, were brought to the attention of the social service provider by the MLSP within the process of provisional licensing of the social service RESIDENTIAL HOME FOR CARE AND ASSISTANCE OF DEPENDENT PERSONS “CASA CORA”- SOCIAL SERVICE CODE 8790 CR-PD-I.Excerpt from the reply received on 6.03.2023
- GENERAL DIRECTORATE FOR SOCIAL ASSISTANCE AND CHILD PROTECTION (DGASPC – Direcția Generală de Asistență Socială și Protecția Copilului) – received on 21.02.2023 Full response DGASPC Ilfov, received on 8.03.2023 Full response DGASPC Ilfov
Social care home Armonia is a residential service intended for adults with disabilities licensed provisionally through Temporary Operating License no. 1358/12.07.2022 issued by the National Authority for the Protection of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
DGASPC Ilfov, through the Case Management and Monitoring Service of Social Services for Adults with Disabilities, periodically carries out monitoring visits to the social care home Armonia,
On the visit completed on 30.01.2023 it was found that the hygiene and the living conditions are in accordance with Order no. 82/2019 regarding the approval of specific minimum standards of mandatory quality for social services intended for adults with disabilities,Excerpt from the reply received on 21.02.2023
- The MINISTRY OF HEALTH informed us that they will investigate the complaints of the CLR – Full response Sfântul Gabriel cel Viteaz Ministry of Health
DGASPC Ilfov, through the Case Management and Social Services Monitoring Service for Adults with Disabilities, periodically makes monitoring visits to the social care home Armonia, thus, during the last visit carried out on 22.02.2023, as well as at the previous ones, it was found that hygiene and living conditions are in accordance with Order no. 82/2019 regarding the approval of specific minimum quality standards mandatory for social services intended for adults with disabilities. At the same time, we make it clear that our institution has formulated a response to the Centre for Legal Resources, which we attach to the present one.Excerpt from the reply received on 8.03.2023
We are kindly asking you
to take over the coordination of the actions initiated by the CLR as they were previously listed, in the context that we have not identified another higher forum that would assume the coordination of a commission to investigate and correct the institutional causes at central and local level that for over two decades have favoured the occurrence of abuses in the institutions referred to in this case, and leave tens of thousands of people with disabilities, minors, adults and the elderly defenseless.
We believe that criminal justice sanctions are not the only tool available to the criminal state. Firstly because many of these trials have been going on for over ten years and secondly because the wave of statute of limitations in the last two months has shown us how little the lives of people with disabilities and the elderly matter to the judiciary. There are hundreds of people who have been beaten, trafficked, raped, starved, tied up, kidnapped and for whom no one is criminally responsible.
A recent example of this is the director of the General Directorate of Social Assistance and Child Protection of Bihor who, together with a team of educators, social workers and managers, allowed the physical abuse of several minors in a foster home in Oradea, facts denounced by the CLR following an unannounced monitoring visit in October 2003. Recently, with the ruling of the statute of limitations on criminal liability in this case, all persons have been reinstated in public service with back pay. It should be recalled that a similar situation was also recently found in relation to the nursing home in Păulești, Prahova.
The concern of the Centre for Legal Resources is that as long as this issue does not become a priority at the highest level, the institution of the Prime Minister, we will continue to witness the death in suspicious conditions and the subjection to bad, inhuman and degrading treatment of tens of thousands of people. The lack of a mechanism for coordinating the rights of people with intellectual and/or psychosocial disabilities confined in social care homes and hospitals, at the level of the Romanian Government institution, allows the central public authorities, under the coordination of some ministries, to ignore abuses or pass the buck, while people suffer or die.
Please note that, according to the provisions of Article 15 paragraph (1) of Law 8/2016, the National Authority for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is the institution responsible for coordinating the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the licensing of social service providers, as well, this institution being subordinate to the Ministry of Labour and Social Solidarity, which makes it impossible for central institutions (e.g. Ministry of Labour, Ministry of Health) to be sanctioned by an inferior one, even subordinate to it. In fact, seven years after this responsibility was established in a central authority, we do not have a government decision for the functioning of the National Coordination Mechanism at government level.
“In order to fulfil the provisions of art. 33 para. (1) of the Convention, the National Authority for Persons with Disabilities shall be designated as the Coordinating Mechanism for the implementation of the Convention” in conjunction with art. 4 lit. e) “In order to achieve its purpose, the Monitoring Board shall carry out the following tasks, in compliance with the principles of legality, respect for the dignity of persons, non-discrimination, equal opportunities, as well as functional and staff independence, impartiality and objectivity: e) it shall refer the matter to the authority legally competent to impose disciplinary sanctions or fines or to suspend, withdraw or revoke the accreditation of the institutions referred to in Article 2(2) of the Convention. (2) in cases of violation of the rights of persons with disabilities;”Law no. 8/2016, art. 15 par. 1
At the same time, we recall that last year the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, the institution mandated to supervise the execution of ECHR judgments, repeatedly requested Bucharest to adopt a National Action Plan for the prevention of ill-treatment in psychiatric hospitals and social care homes, Romania having been delayed since 2012. At the same time, last autumn, another body under the coordination of the Council of Europe, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), paid unannounced visits to several psychiatric hospitals and residential homes, where it focused on the treatment of the most acute patients and long-term chronic patients
In view of the above, we respectfully request that:
- To note the existence of a real difference of strength between the institutions obliged to take measures regarding the rights of persons with disabilities and the institution designated as the UNCRPD Control Mechanism and consequently to order the necessary steps to be taken to remedy such a totally absurd situation;
- You note that although a legislative framework for the implementation of the Convention was created by Law 8/2016, it is completely inoperative, which is why we ask for your involvement so that the Mechanism becomes operational and can sanction the institutions responsible in this matter;
- You note that several investigative journalists have been involved in identifying abuses of the rights of people with disabilities institutionalised in (mainly) private social care homes, uncovering “suspicious partnerships” between certain economic operators and political actors in the Ministry of Family and the Ministry of Labour, so we urge you to get involved in order to stop such behaviour and to ensure that the rights of people with disabilities are truly respected.