The recently reported deaths in social care institutions in Serbia are not isolated cases

11. Mar 2019.

Civil society organisations for human rights and fundamental freedoms issue:


In respect of the recent deaths of residents at the social care home in Trbunje, and the social care home in Tutin, and an earlier case of suffocation of a 23 year old resident in social care institution Sremčica, these are not isolated cases but just a small number which have gained the attention of the Serbian public. The mortality rate in social care institutions for persons with disabilities is several times higher than in the general population. Medical care for persons living in social care homes is inadequate and people are often deprived of important medical treatments. Residents are exposed to various forms of violence, neglect and ill-treatment. Such treatment of persons with mental disabilities on the part of the state institutions sends a message that their lives are less worthy, while no one is held accountable for their degrading circumstances, poor status and widespread, systemic violations of fundamental rights. Consequences of institutionalisation are long-term and have deeply adverse affects on persons with disabilities:
  • Institutionalisation is often life-long 71% of adult residents and 40% of children residing in social care homes in Serbia live there until their death.
  • A life in an institution is characterized by segregation and isolation, depersonalisation, lack of privacy, deprivation of liberty, rigid daily routines, inadequate protection against neglect and ill-treatment, a lack of an individualised approach and understanding of the needs of residents, and unequal treatment based on the type and severity of the disability.
  • Children and adults living in social care homes are exposed to excessive administration of psychiatric medication and denial of necessary medical interventions, and unnecessary and prolonged use of restraints. For all that said, the below-signed civil society organizations call upon the Government of the Republic of Serbia, the Ministry for work, employment, veteran and social affairs, the Republic Public Prosecutor and other responsible authorities to:
    • Inform the public on the results of investigations taken regarding the recent deaths in social care homes in Trbunje, Tutin and Sremčica;
    • Ensure that responsible individuals are held accountable and prosecuted for the acts or omissions that lead to the controversial deaths;
    • Urgently prioritize improving the status of persons with disabilities living in social care homes, and start taking steps to address multiple and systemic forms of discrimination;
    • Adopt a strategic document for deinstitutionalization;
    • Amend or repeal regulations which allow for the institutionalization of persons with disabilities against their free will;
    Nonetheless, we call upon media to consistently follow and report about this topic and thus facilitate promotion and understanding of the position of persons with disabilities who live in social care institutions in Serbia, and contribute to the elimination of systemic discrimination against persons with mental disabilities. The whole statement can be downloaded here.