The UN Committee against Torture (UN CAT) – gravely concerned by the way Romania respects the rights of persons with mental disabilities

On the 23rd and 24th of April 2015, the UN Committee against Torture (UN CAT) evaluated the situation regarding the respect for human rights, with the occasion of the second regular report on Romania. Within this evaluation session, the official Romanian delegation presented the progress obtained in domains regarding the implementation of the Convention against Torture, bad treatments, inhuman and degrading, and answered the questions, respectively the concerns of the Committee.

On the 23rd of April 2015, CLR participated at a private meeting with members of the Committee, with the purpose of transmitting the main observations and recommendations following the unannounced monitoring visits in residential institutions for persons with mental disabilities conducted in Romania during the past 11 years, but especially from the last 7 months. These observations have been taken into account by the members of the Committee and were introduced in the evaluation report published on 16th of May 2015.

We present you just part of the Committee’s concerns and recommendations extracted from the evaluation report – page 6, point 14:

(a) The treatment and living conditions of persons with disabilities, both adults and minors, placed in psychiatric wards and hospitals and specialized social care institutions, which have reportedly resulted in numerous deaths of patients due to neglect, lack of basic care, use of mechanical restraints, denial of medical and psychological treatment, severe malnutrition amounting to inhuman and degrading treatment;

(b) The absence of investigations into the reported deaths of the 16 patients at the Poiana Mare Psychiatric Hospital, of several hundred patients between 2001 and 2004, and of some 2000 persons between January 2011 and August 2014 in institutions for persons with mental disabilities in approximately half of the country owing to extremely bad living conditions and inferior medical treatment, such as always being kept in dark rooms and sedated, tied with ligatures to their beds and fed while lying on their back, fed insufficient and inadequate food, being screamed at and beaten and denied life-saving external medical treatment, which results in serious medical or psychiatric related stress, as was the case with patients at the Gheorghe Serban Centre for Recuperation and Rehabilitation of Neuropsychiatry;

(e) The high numbers of persons with psycho-social disabilities and of mental health institutions which reflect lack of progress in the transition from institutional to community-based care and family centres. (arts. 2, 11, 12, 13, 15 and 16)

Regarding the National Prevention Mechanism, the Committee salutes the initiative to establish it under the Convention’s Optional Protocol, but is gravely concerned for the fact that the NPM is not fully operational. We quote here the Committe’s observations on this matter:

The State party should allocate adequate financial and staffing resources to ensure the independence of the office of the Ombudsman in order to enable it to function effectively in its distinct role as the NPM. It should also ensure that it has a multidisciplinary team, including persons with medical and psychiatric expertise and visits regularly all places where persons are deprived of their liberty. The Committee encourages the NPM to take advantage of the experience of civil society organizations in this field.

In conclusion, CLR is shocked about the passivity and lack of reaction by the Romanian Government to these concerns and recommendations, and points out that Romania still doesn’t have a strategy for preventing the institutionalization of persons with mental disabilities and for promoting the independent life in the community for those institutionalized.

Finally, we’d like to add that the draft law regarding the establishment of the NPM registered to the Deptuty’s Chamber on 22nd of April for public debate with number: Pl-x nr. 363/2015 and supported so far by over 3.200 citizens that signed an online petition innitiated by CLR, still lies on the Prliament’s table.

Read the UN CAT’s concluding observations on the second periodic report of Romania