UN finds Hungary responsible for “grave and systematic violations” of disability rights, condemns mass institutionalisation funded by the EU

Press Release from Validity Foundation, By Steven Allen • 16th April 2020

The United Nations has today found Hungary responsible for “grave and systematic” violations of the human rights of persons with disabilities in the country.

In a report released today, the UN found the country in flagrant breach of international law for placing people with disabilities in institutions, aided by the European Union which has provided extensive funding to maintain this system.

The legal findings come following a two-year international inquiry conducted by the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD Committee). The inquiry was triggered when Validity Foundation, an international disability rights organisation headquartered in Budapest, requested the Committee to investigate in 2017 and provided extensive evidence documenting the violations. The European Network on Independent Living (ENIL) and the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (TASZ) joined the request.

In its report, the CRPD Committee condemned Hungary for maintaining and expanding a national system of social care institutions which “perpetuate segregation and isolation from society” affecting almost 100,000 adults and children including 27,000 persons with disabilities. The report also criticises systematic discrimination in Hungarian law, policy and practice, including through operating a system of guardianship that strips people with disabilities of their rights.

Noting the scale and gravity of the violations uncovered, the UN experts called for mass reparations to be made to people who have suffered violations of their rights.

Commenting on the report, Steven Allen, Co-Executive Director of Validity said: “The Coronavirus pandemic has brought into sharp relief the dangers inherent in keeping people with disabilities in institutions. Segregating people in such settings places them at risk of mortal harm and breaches human rights law.

Most startling is the finding that Hungary has used vast sums of funding from the European Union to incarcerate people on a massive scale. This report has serious implications for the EU which has consistently failed to prevent Hungary from systematically misusing of European funds, with profound consequences for people now being forced to live and die in institutions flying the EU flag.

Ann Campbell, Co-Executive Director of Validity, added that, “We very much welcome the finding that both large and small institutions, including small-scale group homes, violate human rights. There is a wide-spread misconception that small institutions of 6 – 12 people or less are acceptable ‘alternatives’ for persons with disabilities. The findings of the Committee starkly confirm that the risks for people in these settings remain as serious as for those in larger institutions and the violation of rights is just as grave.”

Ines Bulic Cojocariu, Deputy Director of ENIL said: “The UN report exposes the pressure on disabled people’s organisations funded by the Government, which results in virtually no criticism of the Government’s actions. The European Commission is complicit in this, in that it has repeatedly failed to act on complaints by ENIL and other organisations about the Government’s use of EU funds to institutionalise disabled people.

Kristóf Környei, Expert of the Equality Project of TASZ said “On 5 March 2020, the Hungarian Government announced a new call for tenders to close institutions and develop community-based services. The budget of the call is of nearly 150 million euros. The new call does not meet international human rights standards, and if the implementation of the project takes place without amending the call, the Hungarian government will sustain and reinforce institutional culture by building mini-institutions across the country.

ENDS

I am hopeful one day, we will ALL be campaigning to shut down ALL large institutions (nursing homes) that currently house persons who required assisted living, and people with dementia who require assisted living – and who are currently segregated and detained.

Read the publications from a recent research project on safe and just futures for people with dementia living in residential aged care. Also of grave concern in Australia, and possibly other countries, is that governments support and fund many of these places of segregation and detention!

Notes related to the media release:

  • The UN report is available here (Word). The website of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities can be accessed here.
  • CRPD Committee press release here.
  • The official press release of the United Nations can be found here.
  • Steven Allen, Co-Executive Director of Validity, is available for telephone interviews – email press@validity.ngo, +44-7555-226-580.
  • The Validity Foundation is an international non-governmental organisation which pursues legal strategies to promote, protect and defend the human rights of persons with mental disabilities worldwide. Headquartered in Budapest, Validity undertakes strategic litigation, research and advocacy in Europe and Africa, holding special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Committee (ECOSOC) and participatory status with the Council of Europe. Validity previously documented torture, ill-treatment and abuse against children and adults with disabilities at the Topház Social Care Home in Hungary in 2017. Website: www.validity.ngo
  • The European Network on Independent Living (ENIL) is a Europe-wide network of disabled people, with members throughout Europe. ENIL is a forum for all disabled people, Independent Living organizations and their non-disabled allies on the issues of Independent Living. ENIL represents the disability movement for human rights and social inclusion based on solidarity, peer support, deinstitutionalization, democracy, self-representation, cross disability and self-determination. ENIL holds special consultative status with ECOSOC and participatory status with the Council of Europe. Website: www.enil.eu
  • The Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (TASZ) is a national human rights NGO in which the Equality Project focuses on the rights of persons with disabilities in Hungary, especially those with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities. TASZ’s main focus is to protect the legal capacity of persons with disabilities, securing the right to education of children with disabilities and the right to independent life of all by monitoring the deinstitutionalisation process in Hungary. TASZ provides legal aid and pursues strategic litigation as well as advocating for the development of community-based services in Hungary. Website: www.tasz.hu
  •  The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is an international human rights treaty with binding force upon States that have ratified it. It is one of the most widely adopted treaties having been ratified by 181 countries. Hungary ratified the Convention in 2007. The EU acceded in 2010. 
  • Key rights guaranteed under the CRPD include the right to independent living in the community (Article 19), the right to legal capacity (Article 12) and the right to equality and non-discrimination (Article 5). The inquiry report finds that there have been “grave and systematic violations” of these provisions.
  • Social care in Hungary is funded through a mixture of domestic public financing and other regional and international sources. Most significantly among the latter are EU Structural and Investment Funds. Whereas the EU has acceded to the CRPD, the European Commission has continued to provide hundreds of millions of Euros to Hungary in the field of disability policy, which has been used by Hungary to renovate, maintain and build new institutions for persons with disabilities. This situation breaches not only the CRPD but also EU law, which gives full effect to international human rights law treaties in fields of EU action.
  • An Optional Protocol to the CRPD (OP-CRPD) allows victims of rights violations to file complaints. It also allows NGOs and others to request the Committee to inquire into allegations of “grave or systematic” violations of the CRPD based on reliable information. The Committee can then examine the allegations, including conducting fact-finding missions to the country concerned and interviewing a wide range of effected individuals as well as government authorities. The Committee visited Hungary for almost two weeks in 2019.

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