Croatia’s government should end the confinement of children and adults with disabilities in institutions, five disabled people’s and human rights organisations said today in a letter to Prime Minister Andrej Plenković. Despite some initial progress, the process of moving people out of institutions and into community-based living has stalled, the groups said.
Based on government figures for 2017, more than 7,800 adults and children with disabilities live in state-run institutions. More than 2,000 others live in privately run but state-funded institutions. These include smaller institutions called family homes, which house up to 20 people with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities, or mental health conditions. It is unclear how many others live in long-term care in psychiatric hospitals without their consent.
“The Croatian government should follow through on its promises to respect the rights of everyone who has a disability to live independently and make their own choices,” said Emina Ćerimović, senior disability rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The government helped make this a reality for hundreds of people and should build on this experience for thousands of others.”
According to official data, between 2011 and 2016, the government provided support for approximately 700 people to move out of state-run institutions and into organised housing in the community.
Croatia should make a clear plan to phase out institutions
The groups sending the letter are Inclusion Europe, the European Network on Independent Living, the Centre for Peace Studies Croatia, Human Rights House Zagreb, and Human Rights Watch.
The Croatian government should make a clear plan to phase out institutions, the groups said. The government should also develop services in the community, so that children with disabilities can grow up in families and that people with disabilities can live independently, with adequate support.
“The Croatian government needs to move more quickly to meet its obligations under the international disability rights treaty, which it ratified a decade ago,” said Human Rights House Zagreb’s Ivan Novosel. “This includes removing all legal and societal barriers that prevent people with disabilities from taking an active and full part in society.”
The government’s figures show that as of April 2018, more than 2,455 adults with disabilities were living in foster care. On May 21, the government published a draft Law on Foster Care that would give priority to placing adults with disabilities in the foster care program, including without their consent. Foster care cannot be considered independent living in community for adults as required by the disability rights treaty, the organisations said.
Both the United Nations Committee on the Rights of People With Disabilities and Croatia’s Ombudswoman for Persons with Disabilities have criticized placing adults in foster care.
“The government continues to place adults with disabilities in institutions and foster families against their will”
“Under the international disability rights treaty, Croatia must respect the right of all people with disabilities to live independently in the community, regardless of their impairment, support needs, or age,” said Ines Bulic Cojocariu, deputy director at the European Network on Independent Living. “The government should develop and adequately fund community-based services. Instead, the government continues to place adults with disabilities in institutions and foster families against their will.”
People with psychosocial disabilities in psychiatric hospitals and those in foster care remain excluded from the government’s deinstitutionalization efforts.
In an April meeting with Human Rights Watch, the Social Policy Ministry promised to adopt a new plan to support community-based living for people with disabilities, including those in state-run institutions, private institutions, and family homes. In a subsequent letter to Human Rights Watch, however, the ministry said that people with disabilities who need long-term and intensive care will remain in institutions.
Many people with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities end up in institutions or foster care because they are denied legal capacity or the right to make basic decisions for themselves. A guardian makes some or all decisions for them. About 18,000 people with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities are under some form of guardianship in Croatia.
Jyrki Pinomaa: “Croatia should be restoring legal capacity to people under guardianship”
In June 2014, the Croatian Parliament adopted a new Family Act, which abolished full guardianship. It required courts to review all previous decisions on deprivation of legal capacity with the aim of restoring partial or full legal capacity to those previously stripped of it by January 2020. Since then, courts have reviewed only 1,179 cases, restoring full legal capacity to just 95 people and partial legal capacity to 273. Restoring partial legal capacity means a court can specify what decisions the person is allowed to make independently and those that a guardian will continue to make, such as for living arrangements and health care.
Guardianship and other forms of restricting the right to make decisions are inconsistent with Croatia’s human rights obligations
said Jyrki Pinomaa, president of Inclusion Europe. “Croatia should be restoring legal capacity to people under guardianship and implementing supported decision-making systems that respect the autonomy, will, and preferences of each person.”
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities guarantees the right of everyone with a disability to live independently and to be included in the community, regardless of their disability, whether they have multiple disabilities, or whether they need a high level of support. The freedom for individuals to make decisions and control their lives is essential to living independently, the organisations said. In December 2017, the Council of the European Union called on EU governments to ensure that everyone has the right to live independently within their community and to play an active part in society.
“Croatia should mark the 10th anniversary since ratifying the disability rights treaty by reforming laws and policies to meet its obligation under the treaty. This includes ensuring that persons with disabilities have the opportunity to choose their place of residence and where and with whom they live, and are not obliged to live in a particular living arrangement ,” said Cvijeta Senta of the Centre for Peace Studies.
Human Rights Watch reporting on disability rights
Human Rights Watch reporting on Croatia
For more information, please contact:
In New York, for Human Rights Watch, Emina Ćerimović (English, Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian, Swedish): +1-646-427-1814 (mobile); or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @EminaHRW
In Brussels, for Inclusion Europe, Angelika Hild (English, French, German, Spanish): +32-250-22815; or email@example.com
In London, for the European Network on Independent Living, Ines Bulic Cojocariu (English, Croatian): +44-796-442-4331; or firstname.lastname@example.org
In Zagreb, for Human Rights House Zagreb, Ivan Novosel (English, Croatian): +38-599-250-2250; or email@example.com
In Zagreb, for the Center for Peace Studies, Cvijeta Senta (English, Croatian): +385-1-482-0094; or firstname.lastname@example.org
Click on a word which is in bold to read what it means.
“Croatia must stop putting people
with disabilities in institutions”
These organisations are:
- Inclusion Europe;
- European Network on Independent Living;
- Centre for Peace Studies;
- Human Rights House Zagreb;
- Human Rights Watch.
In the letter they write that no one should live
any more in institutions in Croatia.
The Croatian government needs
to make this happen.
There are still a lot of people
living in institutions in Croatia.
Most of these institutions stay open
thanks to the money given to them by the government.
Some of these institutions are small,
with about 20 people with disabilities
There are also people with intellectual disabilities
who are made to live in a hospital.
Emina Ćerimović works for Human Rights Watch
and knows a lot about human rights.
She says that people with disabilities have the right
to live independently and to make their own choices.
The government of Croatia
should respect that right.
The government of Croatia has already helped
some people with disabilities to get out of institutions
and to live in the community.
But there are still a lot of people with disabilities
who live in institutions.
The government should help
these people too to get out.
To do this, the government needs to make a plan
to close institutions down one by one.
It is important that the government helps
create support services in the communities.
In this way children with disabilities
can live with their families,
and adults with disabilities can live independently.
Ivan Novosel works at the Human Rights House Zagreb
and knows a lot about human rights.
He says that the government of Croatia needs to respect
an international document for the rights of persons with disabilities
it signed many years ago.
The government agreed with this document,
so it must respect the rights of people with disabilities,
for example the right to take part in society.
The government in Croatia makes
people with disabilities live in group homes,
even if they don’t want to.
Living in group homes means
you still do not have an independent life there.
This is against the treaty the Croatian government signed.
The UN CRPD Committee said that group homes
are not good for people with disabilities.
Bulic Cojocariu works at the
European Network on Independent Living
and knows a lot about human rights.
He says that Croatia must respect
the right of people with disabilities
to live independently in the community.
The people who do not get help from the government
are the people who live in hospitals and group homes.
In April someone from the government of Croatia
said that they would work to support community living
for people with disabilities.
But afterwards this person said
that people who need a lot of care
will have to stay in institutions.
Many people with disabilities are under guardianship,
live in institutions.
This is because someone else
is making all choices for them.
In Croatia there are a lot of people
who are under guardianship.
Judges are working to give back
legal capacity to everyone.
But it is taking too much time.
And most of the time they do not give the people
back their full legal capacity.
This is bad because then still guardians make
many decisions for these people.
Jyrki Pinomaa is the president of Inclusion Europe.
He said that Croatia must respect the right
of people with disabilities to make their choices,
because otherwise Croatia would go against human rights.
The government of Croatia needs to work
so that everyone can live independently
and be able to make their own choices.
The UN CRPD says that it doesn’t matter
which kind of disability you have.
You have the right to live independently
and to be part of the community.
It’s very important to have the freedom
to make choices in your life.
Also the Council of the European Union
agrees on this,
and asks all European countries
to respect the freedom of choice
of people with disabilities.
Cvijeta Senta works at the Centre for Peace Studies.
She said that 10 years ago
Croatia signed the UN CRPD.
She said that Croatia should remember that.
She said that people with disabilities in Croatia
should be able to live wherever they want
and with the people they want to live with.