Stankov v. Bulgaria: Case Summary and Comment

Mr. Stefan Stankov at Rusokastro. (c) MDAC.

Read MDAC's full case summary here (PDF).

MDAC’s client Stefan Stankov was partially deprived of his legal capacity in May 1999. He was stripped of his autonomy, including his recognition as a person before the law, and placed under guardianship.

Mr. Stankov was shortly thereafter placed in the Dragash Voyvoda social care institution against his will. The conditions were appalling. He was forced to share clothing with other residents (all clothing was for general usage) in an institution that was filthy and unheated, even in the depths of the Bulgarian winter. Deaths at the institution became common place, and following intense international criticism the institution was later closed in 2002.

The closure of Dragash Voyvoda failed to result in positive change for Mr. Stankov. Instead, he was moved to a second institution in Rusokastro, where he continued to be cut off from society and was forced to live in similarly horrendous conditions. He remains there to this day. Not once since he was first placed under guardianship was his placement reviewed by the Bulgarian courts.

Last week, the European Court of Human Rights found that Bulgaria had subjected Mr. Stankov to degrading conditions during his extended detention in violation of Article 3 (freedom from torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment) of the European Convention on Human Rights. Similarly to the case of Stanev v. Bulgaria, in which MDAC also represented the Applicant, his placement in institutions against his will constituted a deprivation of liberty without any possibility of challenging this, breaching obligations under Articles 5 (liberty and security) and 6 (right to a fair trial) of the Convention.

The judgment last week of the European Court of Human Rights in Stankov v. Bulgaria is the second time that Bulgaria has found to have violated the human rights of people with mental disabilities in the last few years by placing them under guardianship and into institutions. The Court also criticised Bulgaria for continuing to maintain a legal framework which denies people with mental disabilities the opportunity to achieve redress for human rights violations by denying them access to court.

Upon hearing of the judgment, Mr. Stankov's reaction was simple: 'At last'. He will now be given the opportunity of rebuilding his life in the community, and MDAC will continue to represent him so that he gets the support he needs to move back into the community.


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