‘Urgently close Topház’ – says the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child
18 February 2020, Budapest. Last week the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC Committee) published its Concluding Observations for Hungary.
In November 2018, the CRC Committee requested the Hungarian Government to submit information on how Hungary has progressed on implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Child to which the country has been a State party since 1991. The Committee explicitly called on the Government to “provide information on the reported cases of torture, inhuman or degrading treatment and neglect of children with disabilities placed in institutions, such as Topház Special Home (paragraph 20). In 2017, Validity revealed shocking torture and ill-treatment of children and adults in the Topház Special Home and called on the Government to take urgent measures to protect and provide redress to the victims.
In July 2019, the Hungarian Government submitted its State report, in which it used medical approach-type wording, for example ‘handicapped’ or ‘suffering from disabilities’, many times when reflecting on the situation of children with disabilities. Furthermore, the Government failed to respond to all issues raised by the Committee and did not offer any explanation, for example, in relation to the reported cases of ill-treatment in institutions for children with disabilities, and did not even mention the Topház institution in its report.
In August 2019, the Hungarian Child Rights NGO Coalition, of which Validity is a member, submitted an alternative report, providing the CRC Committee with civil society information on the rights of children, including children with disabilities, in Hungary. In this shadow report, submitting organisations pointed out, among others, that according to discriminatory Hungarian legislation, children with severe disabilities and children with long-term illnesses are exceptions to the rule that children must be placed with foster families and not in institutions.
Following the constructive dialogue between the CRC Committee and the Government in January 2020, the Committee published its concluding observations in which it was concerned, for example, that:
- children with disabilities are deprived of their families and live in institutions, children’s homes and small group homes (paragraph 29 (a));
- the Government has not taken sufficient measures to end the institutionalisation of children with disabilities and to promote accessible health and rehabilitation services, transportation, leisure and sports to ensure their inclusion in the community (paragraph 29 (b));
- there are cases of child sexual abuse and maltreatment of children with disabilities in institutional care, such as at the Topház Special Home/House of Providence (paragraph 29 (c)); and
- state care does not provide adequate services to children with disabilities (paragraph 29 (d)).
In relation to children with disabilities, the CRC Committee called on the Government to:
- ensure that children with disabilities in alternative care settings have access to confidential and child-sensitive complaints mechanisms, are able to report cases of misconduct, and that reported cases are promptly addressed (paragraph 28(g));
- strengthen its efforts to support, including through financial assistance, families of children with disabilities so they can provide adequate care to their children and ensure their integration in the community (paragraph 30(a));
- rapidly phase out institutionalisation of children with disabilities and urgently close Topház and other institutions that do not comply with standards; while increasing access to community services inclusive of children with disabilities, particularly health and rehabilitation services, transportation, leisure and sports, to promote their inclusion in society (paragraph 30(b));
- ensure that reporting of cases of violence, abuse and neglect of children with disabilities is mandatory for all persons working with them, and ensure access to judicial remedies and redress for children with disabilities (paragraph 30(d)); and
- strengthen the independent monitoring of psychiatric hospitals and other institutions where children with disabilities are institutionalised, and ensure access to independent lawyers and human rights defenders for the provision of legal aid and counselling (paragraph 30(d)).
Validity welcomes and strongly supports the observations of the CRC Committee. Validity has constantly been advocating for the closure of childcare institutions, including group homes; appropriate practical and financial support to families with children with disabilities; investments in community-based services; inclusive education; human rights defenders’ access to institutions of children with disabilities; and judicial remedies and redress for children with disabilities who are denied their rights. The Hungarian Government claims that Hungary is a family-friendly country. Validity wants to see a Hungary which respects the human rights of, and creates a family-friendly society for, all children without any discrimination on the basis of disability.