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DRI and allies testify on abuses in the Americas

DRI and activists from the Americas to testify March 25, 2014 before Inter-American Commission of the OAS on abuses of people with disabilities throughout the Americas

“Millions of children and adults with disabilities are locked up and detained in institutions without any ability to go to court.  If they are raped, tortured, subject to physical abuse, or even trafficked for sex, they cannot take legal action to protect their rights if they are placed under guardianship. Under the legal systems that exist throughout the Americas, being placed under guardianship is known as ‘legal death,’” said Humberto Guerrero, Director of the Americas office of Disability Rights International (DRI-Mexico).

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights will hear testimony by Disability Rights International and counterparts from Mexico, Argentina, Columbia, Costa Rica, and Peru exposing the atrocious human rights violations that take place when people with disabilities are stripped of their rights through denial of “legal capacity.”

I was first detained in psychiatric hospital when I was 18.  I did not want to be there and tried to escape, so they detained me again forcefully. I was administered more than 11 medications that made me feel like a zombie.  But they never asked me whether I wanted to be medicated at all. Then they tied me down with locks that were very painful. It was terrifying.  For months after that, I could not shake off the feeling of being tied down.  –  Natalia Santos,President of the Colectivo Chuhcan, Mexico’s first human rights advocacy organization run by people with psychosocial disabilities.  Read Natalia’s testimony in Spanish and English.

Guatemala, Federico Mora Psychiatric Facility, a man stands with his face pressed to a gated window behind a locked door.

Guatemala, Federico Mora Psychiatric Facility, a man stands with his face pressed to a gated window behind a locked door.

We have documented abuses of this kind in countries throughout the Americas.  Some of the worst abuses we’ve seen anywhere are taking place right now at the Federico Mora psychiatric facility in Guatemala.   Men, women, boys, and girls are trafficked and abused at the facility, yet they do not have the legal right to challenge their abuse.  The Inter-American Commission called on Guatemala to take immediate steps to protect the lives of Federico Mora’s detainees, but so far Guatemala has failed to act. – Eric Rosenthal, Executive Director of DRI.

Read DRI’s petition for precautionary measures and the Inter-American Commission’s order.

Full recommendations to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issued by DRI and partners:

 

DRI Delegation in Guatemala Urges Government to Finalize and Implement Accord to fulfill its obligations under a precautionary measures order of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

February 27th, 2014 – Washington, DC – A delegation of DRI staff and experts is in Guatemala this week to negotiate with the government on the implementation of an Accord to protect the rights of people with disabilities detained in the Federico Mora psychiatric hospital in Guatemala City.   “The government of Guatemala made an historic agreement to protect rights and provide for the community integration of children and adults in the country’s mental health system,” said Eric Rosenthal, Executive Director of Disability Rights International (DRI).  “Now is the time for Guatemala to fulfill its obligations under the American Convention and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  The Accord provides a valuable framework for collaboration with international experts. It demonstrates that people with disabilities can live in the community with full protection of their rights.”

The Accord describes detailed steps that Guatemala will take to protect the rights of people with disabilities detained in the Federico Mora psychiatric hospital in Guatemala City under a precautionary measures order (MC-370-12) of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. While respecting labor rights of the staff at the hospital, Guatemala agrees in the Accord to create a system of community-based mental health services within two years and to bring about “a significant reduction” of detainees at the institution.  In addition to creating group homes for adults, the government agrees to establish new family-based supports for children with disabilities.  The government promises not to allow any new admissions of children.

The Accord was signed by the President of Guatemala’s Presidential Commission for Human Rights, Antonio Arenales, representing the government in Guatemala, on October 30, 2013.  At a working meeting of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on October 31, 2013,  the delegation from Guatemala described these activities as steps it would be taking to fulfill its obligations under the precautionary measures order.  The Accord is subject only to the final approval of the Attorney General.

Full text of Accord:
English PDF
Spanish PDF

Disability Rights are Human Rights

BBC World News covers DRI report on human rights abuses in the Republic of Georgia

Washington, DC–January 10, 2014– BBC World News today aired a report publicizing the findings of Disability Rights Internationals (DRI) investigation into human rights abuses against children and adults with disabilities in the Republic of Georgia. 
 
“Georgia has become one of the first ex-Soviet republics to abolish state orphanages in favour of foster care. But disabled children continue to be marginalised and face the prospect of life-long isolation from society, reports the BBC.
Click above to watch the BBC World News report

See the BBC Coverage here:

 

Last month,  DRI released a report, Left Behind, documenting atrocious human rights violations in the Republic of Georgia’s orphanages and institutions for persons with disabilities. Sixty-one local Georgian NGOs have expressed support of DRI’s report and have demanded that the Georgian government act now to protect the lives of children and adults with disabilities in Georgia’s institutions.  

 

The United States government also bears a special responsibility for addressing these human rights violations.

DRI’s investigation found that the US funded the construction of two new segregated and abusive institutions for adults with disabilities.  The BBC reports that for many, detainment in these facilities “…means living in isolation for the rest of their lives.”

This week, DRI submitted an open letter to US Secretary of State John Kerry, calling for a commitment from the US government to fund the creation of community services in Georgia to enable people with disabilities to move out of US-built institutions and live, with support, in the community. DRI also calls for a prohibition on the use of US international aid to build segregated facilities for children and adults with disabilities anywhere in the world.

Read the letter to Secretary Kerry here.

Thank you for your support. Together, we can ensure that all children with disabilities are able to realize their human right to grow up in a loving family, in the community.

Children with disabilities in Georgia’s orphanages face the prospect of life-long institutionalization (photo: DRI, Rob Levy)

DRI REPORT:

Left Behind: The Exclusion of Children and Adults with Disabilities from Reform and Rights Protection in the Republic of Georgia (2013)

English
(PDF)

Georgian
(PDF-Executive Summary)

English Accessible Version
(Word doc)

Georgian Accessible Version
(Word doc)

Following release of human rights report, DRI calls for Georgian government to take immediate action

David Sergienko
Minister of Labor, Health and Social Affairs
Government of the Republic of Georgia

Dear Mr. Sergienko:

On Monday, December 16, Disability Rights International (DRI), a Washington-DC based human rights organization, released a report, “Left Behind: The Exclusion of Children and Adults with Disabilities from Reform and Rights Protection in the Republic of Georgia.

The report is a product of a three-year investigation involving disability rights and medical experts. We identify serious human rights violations against children and adults with disabilities that need your urgent attention. While Georgia has gone through a very impressive process of reform to help children from orphanages live in the community, children and adults with disabilities remain segregated from society in institutions.  We ask that you act immediately to stop new institutionalization and create supported family environments for children and adults with disabilities now in institutions.

Of particular concern are children with disabilities who are being denied medical care in the Tbilisi Infant Home. The denial of life-saving medical care has resulted in a 30% mortality rate of children with disabilities in recent years. Further, the denial of pain medication to these children violates the UN Convention against Torture. We ask that the government immediately intervene to ensure all children with disabilities receive appropriate and prompt medical care and that parents are supported to obtain this care without having to place their child in a state-run orphanage.

There is an urgent need to conduct human rights monitoring inside of orphanages run by the Georgian Orthodox Church. Government and UNICEF officials have reported that there is no accounting for the number or location of children in these orphanages—and that these institutions are unlicensed and are being operated in violation of MoLSHA regulations. Even when institutions are privately run, it is a government obligation to ensure oversight and rights enforcement.  We request permission from the Georgian government for independent human rights organizations, including Disability Rights International, to visit these institutions.

Forty-five (45) local Georgian NGOs have expressed support of DRI’s findings and recommendations (see https://www.change.org/petitions/save-persons-with-disabilities-in-the-republic-of-georgia-2). These organizations include:

Partnership for Human Rights (PHR)
Women’s Initiatives Support Group (WISG)
The Union Cover
Civil Development Agency (CIDA)
Association of Reform (GRASS)
An Accessible Environment for Everyone (AEE)
Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center (EMC)
The Democratic Initiative (GDI)
Damoukideveli Life Youth Center (YCIL)
NGO Article 42
Women and Reality Union
Organization “Let’s Be Friends ”
Media Development Fund (MDF)
Tolerance and Diversity Institute (TDI)
Liberty Institute
Association of Social Workers
ALPE Foundation
LGBT Georgia
Identity
Coalition for Independent Living
Women’s Fund in Georgia (WFG)
Parents of Children with Down syndrome and the union “Our Children .”
Association “Together”
International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED)
Association of Women, Children and Society
Tserovali Youth House
Organization for a Better Future
Multinational Association of Women
Union of Russian Women
First Step of Georgia
Center for Rehabilitation and Development of Shared Charities
Taso Foundation (Foundation for Women and Memory Research Center)
Friends Sakelmokmedo Fund
Studio – Accent On
The Association of People with Disabilities Club
Center for Human Rights
Mercury Association
Women in Development
Repatriates Union
Samtskhe – Javakheti Regional Tolerance Association
Foundation for Women Entrepreneurs (FWE)
Women’s Information Center (WIC)
Psikoservisebis Center
Energy Efficiency Fund
Center for Social Sciences

I welcome any comments and questions you may have about this report.

Sincerely,

Eric Rosenthal
Executive Director
Disability Rights International

DRI releases report documenting atrocious human rights abuses in the Republic of Georgia’s orphanages and institutions for people with disabilities

For information contact:
Eric Rosenthal, Executive Director, DRI
Telephone: +1-202-361-9195 (erosenthal@disabilityrightsintl.org)
Eric Mathews: Advocacy Associate, DRI
Telephone: +1-202-320-0232 (emathews@disabilityrightsintl.org)

hydrocephalus-infant home2013

A child with untreated hydrocephalus in the Tbilisi Infant Home. Children with disabilities are routinely denied life-saving medical care in Georgia’s orphanages. (DRI, 2013)

Tbilisi, Georgia – December 16, 2013 – Disability Rights International, an international human rights organization based in Washington, DC, released a report today documenting atrocious human rights violations in the Republic of Georgia’s orphanages and institutions for persons with disabilities. The report is the product of a three-year investigation by disability experts and health professionals from the United States. According to the report, infants and children are left to die without medical care or pain medication at the Tbilisi infants home, a practice that constitutes torture under international law. Medical experts say the squalid conditions and lack of care in Georgia’s orphanages and institutions contributes to increased disability, high rates of mortality, and avoidable deaths. Improperly stripped of legal rights, parents with disabilities are separated from their children who are raised in other institutions. Georgia’s laws prevent victims of abuse who are detained in these institutions from seeking justice.

Children with disabilities have been largely excluded from Georgia's child care reforms and continue to languish in abusive institutions. (Rob Levy, 2011)

Institutionalized children with disabilities have been largely excluded from Georgia’s child care reforms and continue to languish in abusive orphanages. (DRI, Rob Levy, 2011)

“There is a shadow system of orphanages run by the Church and outside of government control or oversight. No one knows how many children are in this system or how they are cared for,” says the report’s main author, Eric Mathews of DRI. “This creates a serious risk of further abuse, disappearance of children from families, or trafficking.”

The report, Left Behind: The Exclusion of Children and Adults with Disabilities from Reform and Rights Protection in the Republic of Georgia, criticizes United States and other foreign assistance efforts that have funded and rebuilt institutions, such as Martkopi and Temi, that improperly segregate children and adults with disabilities from society. The report praises Georgia for closing down many orphanages for children without disabilities and creating opportunities for them to live with families in the community. But the report also finds that these very reforms have discriminated against children and adults with disabilities by leaving them to languish in institutions, separated from society, and at-risk of abuse and death. “There is an urgent need for the government of Georgia to save its children with disabilities from these abusive environments and to provide opportunities for them to live in the community,” said Eric Rosenthal, the Executive Director of Disability Rights International. “International donors have contributed to the problem of improper segregation, perpetuating human rights violations against people with disabilities. We call on the United States and other donors to help fix the problems they created.”

Anna Arganashvili of the Georgian advocacy organization Partners for Human Rights (PHR) spoke out in support of DRI’s findings: “For years, the government of Georgia promised they would find a way to ensure that children with disabilities would return to family and community life. Those promises remain unrealized. The new Minister of Labor, Health and Social Affairs now tells us openly: these children will remain in institutions. Children with disabilities have been truly left behind. Their lives and their future look very bleak.”

The US Government has perpetuated segregation in the Republic of Georgia by funding the construction of new institutions for persons with disabilities, such as the Martkopi institution, pictured above. (2013)

The US Government has perpetuated segregation in the Republic of Georgia by funding the construction of new institutions for persons with disabilities, such as the Martkopi institution, pictured above. (2013)

REPORT DOWNLOADS:

English
(PDF)

Georgian
(PDF-Executive Summary)

English Accessible Version
(Word doc)

Georgian Accessible Version
(Word doc)

 

 

DRI helps Mexican activists fight human rights abuses

October 22nd, 2013 — Washington, DC – The New York Times today published an article profiling the Colectivo Chuhcan, Mexico’s first human rights advocacy organization led by persons with psychiatric disabilities. Disability Rights International (DRI) established the Colectivo in 2011 and helped the group spin off as an independent human rights organization.

Today’s New York Times article, Ex-Patients Police Mexico’s Mental Health System, reports that Colectivo members are pushing “to hold the mental health system in Mexico accountable for a record of neglect and abuse that is considered among the worst in the Americas.”

In 2010, DRI released Abandoned and Disappeared, a human rights report detailing the torture, trafficking, and cruel and inhuman treatment that is commonplace within Mexico’s decrepit psychiatric facilities. DRI has trained members of the Colectivo to continue human rights monitoring within Mexico’s hospitals. The sustained pressure has led to Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto promising to reform the mental health system.