Duped, detained and drugged

Today, the European Court of Human Rights found that 55-year-old Jaroslav Červenka from the Czech Republic was deceived and wrongfully held in a social care institution for eight months (judgment here). MDAC calls on the Government to prohibit disability-based incarceration, and to evacuate the more than 28,000 people living in social care institutions, and provide supports to them in the community. 

Mr Červenka, source: LIGA

A retired teacher with a mental disability, Mr Červenka was placed under guardianship against his will in 2005. He battled through the courts to regain his legal autonomy, but failed. In February 2011, his guardian (a local government bureaucrat) told him that he was going for “spa treatment” for his injured leg. He was driven 100 km away but instead of arriving at a plush spa, Mr Červenka found himself in a building that reeked of urine and feces.

Locked in the institution and trapped in the legal lobsterpot of guardianship, he asked the staff when he could go home. “You are mistaken, nobody goes back home from here!” they replied. During those eight month he was forced to take Buronil, Tiapridal and Rispen, medication for schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease: conditions he did not have. His freedom was denied: he could only go on “organised walks”, but not by himself. His mobile phone was taken away and letters were checked by staff. Meals were “overall horrible”, he recalls, and there were no activities at all.

Mr Červenka made complaints to all authorities, including the police. They all ignored him. That April he contacted lawyers from the League of Human Rights (a Czech NGO) who worked with the Mental Disability Advocacy Centre (MDAC). They took legal steps to get him out of the institution. They sent a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights.

The “Lázně Letiny” institution says it provides “care”, but in reality is dilapidated, warehouses 260 people in shared rooms. “It was terrible, the first thing I noticed was that there were 50 men and only 2 toilets. There were used nappies everywhere on the ground. The cleaning was done only once a week,” said Mr Červenka. Last year the Czech Ombudsman told the government to close the institution, an instruction the government has ignored.

Following its case-law in another MDAC case Sýkora v. Czech Republic from 2012, the European Court of Human Rights today said that Mr Červenka was unlawfully detained through guardiansip. It found a violation of Article 5 of the European Convention of Human Rights (the right to liberty). The Court also held that he had been denied access to justice to challenge his detention.

Zuzana Durajová, lawyer at LIGA said: “There might be hundreds or thousand people in the same situation as Mr. Červenka in the Czech Republic, left alone, living in inhuman and degrading conditions and being completely ignored by the authorities. The decision of the Strasbourg court is crucial, it sends a clear message to the state that these people deserve to be heard and be treated with respect and dignity.”

“Today’s judgment is a wake-up call for the Czech Government. It should amend its law so it explicitly prohibits locking people with disabilities in institutions,” said Ann Campbell, MDAC Litigation Director. “The Government must invest in community support services so that the more than 28,000 people currently warehoused in institutions can leave. This will prevent people having to endure not just months, but often their entire lives, segregated from society in conditions which are often appalling.”

Read a joint press release issued by MDAC and Liga here: Word and PDF.

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