Death in Veternik institution is a direct consequence of torture against persons with mental disabilities in Serbia

1. juna 2016.

Soba za izolaciju, dom Veternik, arhiv MDRI-SNearly a decade after the 2007 report “Torment not Treatment: Segregation and Abuse of Children and Adults with Disabilities in Serbia” published by Mental Disability Rights International, the Republic of Serbia continues to fail to protect persons who live in residential institutions from inhuman and degrading treatment. The lack of action is a serious dereliction of duty following numerous warnings from national and international organizations about the unlawful use of isolation and restraint measures against persons with mental disabilities. The alarming situation in Veternik has been raised numerous times. The lack of action has now resulted with the death of one resident S.T. (22) in a fire while he was locked in an isolation room.

“Despite numerous warnings, Veternik institution has continued the practice of isolation of residents, which constitutes torture and which in this case led to a death of a young man” – said Dragana Ciric Milovanovic, Executive Director of Mental Disability Rights Initiative MDRI-S. “Unless the authorities immediately initiate criminal procedures against all responsible actors, including those in provincial and republic authorities, who have repeatedly failed to act on known irregularities, and if they do not completely forbid the use of isolation of persons with mental disabilities, we will call on the European Court for Human Rights and other international bodies to step in to prevent similar situations.

The Government of the Republic of Serbia has repeatedly disregarded warnings given by MDRI-S, which has emphasised the disturbing practice of isolating people with disabilities in Veternik in a 2012 report on residential institutions. Since then, the authorities have repeatedly disregarded warnings and recommendations to immediately stop the practice of isolation which have been issued by the Protector of Citizens, National Preventive Mechanism against Torture, and the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights. The recommendations were also supported by the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia in its Conclusions related to the review of 2013 Report of the National Preventive Mechanism against Torture (RS, number 74, in Belgrade, 23rd October 2004)[1]:

“…Starting from the assessment of the Protector of Citizens that in social protection residential institutions, some children with mental and intellectual disabilities are held in isolation, and taking into account the position of the UN Committee against Torture that isolation of persons with severe or acute mental disabilities is not allowed, and the position of the UN Special Rapporteur on torture that isolation of these persons constitutes cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, the National Assembly obliges relevant State authorities to take all available measures for abolishing the practice of isolation of children with mental and intellectual disabilities in residential institutions.”

After disregarding warnings and recommendations from different national and international actors, MDRI-S asks the Government of Serbia what else is needed before they take action to end the continuous abuse and neglect of persons with disabilities who are kept against their will in residential institutions in Serbia.    

[1] http://www.parlament.gov.rs/upload/archive/files/cir/pdf/ostala_akta/2014/RS74-14.pdf