Czechia must adopt concrete steps towards deinstitutionalisation to prevent inherent risk of ill-treatment in institutions – Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights says
The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights has published an eagerly anticipated report following her visit to Czechia in February 2023. Validity welcomes that the Commissioner’s report highlights key human rights violations experienced by persons with disabilities in Czechia.
The Commissioner notes a lack of progress on abolishing guardianship measures applied to persons with disabilities in violation of international law, and points out that there continues to be a lack of awareness about supported decision-making measures. She also warns against setbacks in implementing inclusive education for children with disabilities and emphasised that the Czech authorities have so far failed to end mass institutionalisation of persons with disabilities and have yet to concretely address high levels of ill-treatment and torture. The Commissioner’s report, relying among others on Validity’s information, also criticises the denial of informed consent in mental health settings, including in matters concerning sexual and reproductive health, and the disproportionate use of chemical and mechanical restraint.
In July this year, together with its partners from Platforma pro transformaci and Nevypusť duši, Validity submitted a shadow report to the United Nations Human Rights Committee detailing the widespread use of restraints and other coercive practices in Czech institutional settings. The report highlighted that complaints and monitoring mechanisms are non-functional, meaning that ill-treatment is commonplace without effective prevention or identification measures in place. As a result, widespread abuse inside Czech institutions remains virtually invisible to the public. Cases of torture and ill-treatment in institutions taken to courts by Validity in Czechia continue to show the persistence of this problem. Currently, Validity represents two cases of physical and psychological torture experienced by women with Alzheimer’s disease in an institution. Despite active involvement of family members who brought the cases to light, the police have refused to investigate.
Validity consistently maintains that coercion and ill-treatment are inherent in institutional settings and the only way to eradicate them is to replace institutions with community-based services provided to persons with disabilities on a voluntary basis and subject their own choice and control. We thus welcome the Commissioner’s focus on the failure of the Czech authorities to proceed with deinstitutionalisation of both social and mental health care services. Despite repeated calls from international authorities, Czechia is yet to adopt a binding deinstitutionalisation plan with measurable targets, timelines and adequate budgets which are required in line with its international obligations. On 20 September 2023, the Government failed to adopt a deinstitutionalisation action plan that had been prepared by the Ministry of Social Affairs. In the meantime, Czechia continues to build and refurbish large-scale institutions, including with the use of EU money (§ 80 of the report), in violation of the its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and EU law.
The Commissioner called on Czechia to “recognise that deinstitutionalisation is key to structurally addressing the inherent risk of ill-treatment in institutional settings.” Together with the Commissioner, Validity calls on the Czech Government to halt the building or refurbishment of institutions, adopt an immediate moratorium on admission of new residents, and to urgently adopt a deinstitutionalisation plan compliant with the CRPD and particularly the CRPD Committee’s Guidelines on Deinstitutionalization, including in Emergencies. Effective access to justice and redress must be ensured to all victims of ill-treatment and torture in institutions.