Troubled children bound tightly to fetid cribs they have never left since birth. A 6-year-old boy who tried to rip off his ear while tied to a chair. A teenage girl who attempted to gouge out her eyes as mental hospital staff stood by and did nothing.
The scenes of horror are chronicled in a report released Wednesday by Mental Disability Rights International, a U.S.-based human rights group that alleges systematic abuse of mentally disabled patients in Serbia’s psychiatric hospitals and social care institutions.
Allegations in the report could not be independently confirmed.
Serbia’s Social Affairs Minister Rasim Ljajic said he “agreed with parts of the report” _ and ordered that one of the institutions cited by MDRI stop admitting children because it houses more than 500 “severely retarded” patients.
Health Minister Tomica Milosavljevic said he had not read the report but conceded that psychiatric facilities had continued to suffer as the nation struggled to recover from a series of civil wars in the 1990s.
“My reflex reaction is that during (Serbia’s) transition, the most vulnerable groups, like handicapped people, suffer the most,” he said.
Still, he said the report did not appear to adequately take into account the progress Serbia has made since 2000 to improve conditions in psychiatric hospitals.
“I’m not saying that everything is ideal, far from it,” Milosavljevic said. “But … I don’t think that the problems (listed in the report) are illustrating the true situation.”
Serbia’s mistreatment of the mentally ill was exposed after autocratic President Slobodan Milosevic was overthrown in a popular revolt in 2000. During Milosevic’s 11-year rule, health care standards plummeted as government funding was diverted to paying for the wars in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo.
[Read More: MSNBC]