Council of Europe: Romania must do more to protect the rights of the disabled

Romania should improve the implementation of laws and ensure funding to effectively protect the rights of persons with disabilities and protect women from violence, a new report from the Council of Europe has concluded.

“There are systemic obstacles which seriously hinder the effective protection of the rights of persons with disabilities in Romania,” said Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatović.

The commissioner notes that despite an improved legislative and policy framework, extensive measures are required to address outstanding gaps in the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities. She urges the authorities to clarify the mandates of responsible institutions, strengthen monitoring, and reinforce their collaboration with NGOs.

Commissioner Mijatović is particularly concerned about the underfunding of the social care system for adults and children with disabilities. In this context, she regrets that the Romanian parliament recently adopted a budget law for 2019 which fails to guarantee the allocation, from the state budget, of the funds necessary to support the child protection system and the social care system for persons with disabilities. These developments can have serious consequences for the observance of the human rights of children, with or without disabilities, and of adults with disabilities in Romania and go against the commissioner’s recommendations.

The commissioner also called on the authorities to repeal the current legislation which allows the involuntary placement of persons with disabilities in closed institutions. She also recommended taking urgent measures to mitigate the most severe human rights violations caused by involuntary placements. “There is a need to move from the institutionalisation of persons with disabilities to their full inclusion in society. The authorities should develop community-based support services, increase the accessibility of public spaces and services and promote a more inclusive labour market,” she said.

Furthermore, the commissioner stressed that “providing children with disabilities with care in families, preventing their discrimination in education and ensuring their protection from any form of violence or abuse is paramount.”

As regards the planned amendments to the guardianship system for persons with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities, the commissioner called on the authorities to ensure that the new system will no longer allow the deprivation of such persons of their legal capacity, which severely limits their human rights. “The authorities should safeguard the right of persons with disabilities to enjoy legal capacity on an equal basis with others in all aspects of life,” added Mrs Mijatović.

Concerning violence against women, the commissioner called on the authorities to effectively implement the existing legislation and demonstrate stronger commitment to protecting women from violence. She urged the authorities to improve data collection, allocate sufficient resources to the National Agency for Equal Opportunities for Women and Men and to county and local authorities, and encourage cooperation between institutions and with civil society.  Moreover, she called on the authorities to develop the network of shelters for victims of domestic violence, to ensure that protection orders are systematically enforced and to improve access to justice for women victims of domestic violence, including through enhanced capacity-building for the police, prosecutors and the judiciary. “The rights of the victims should be at the heart of all measures taken to combat all forms of domestic violence and violence against women,” she said.

The commissioner also stressed the crucial need to implement the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights related to the protection of the human rights of persons with disabilities and victims of domestic violence.

Lastly, the commissioner underlined the importance of maintaining the independence of the judiciary and urged the authorities to give effect to the recommendations of the Venice Commission and GRECO and to carry out the justice and criminal law reforms in full compliance with Council of Europe and international human rights standards.