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Hungary: Group calls for closure of state homes for disabled

Associated Press logo Associated Press 3/05/2017 By PABLO GORONDI, Associated Press
The April 18, 2017 photo provided by the Mental Disability Advocacy Center MDAC on Wednesday, May 3, 2017 shows a patient lies on his bed at an institution in the city of God, near Budapest, where some 220 people reside. MDAC said in a report Wednesday that it found signs of ill-treatment and malnutrition. (MDAC via AP) © The Associated Press The April 18, 2017 photo provided by the Mental Disability Advocacy Center MDAC on Wednesday, May 3, 2017 shows a patient lies on his bed at an institution in the city of God, near Budapest, where some 220 people reside. MDAC said in a report Wednesday that it found signs of ill-treatment and malnutrition. (MDAC via AP)

BUDAPEST, Hungary — A human rights group called Wednesday for the closure of Hungary's state-run institutions for people with disabilities after issuing a report detailing alleged abuses and neglect at one home.

The Mental Disability Advocacy Center prepared the report after several visits this year uncovered signs of ill-treatment and malnutrition at the Tophaz Special Home, which houses 220 people in the city of God, near Budapest.

"The conditions, abusive practices and evidence of violence ... are the result of systematic failings in law, policy and regulation and a lack of effective and independent monitoring," Steven Allen, the group's campaigns director, said.

MDAC is also asking the European Union to consider whether the alleged abuses breach the EU's fundamental rights charter and called for an audit by the European Anti-Fraud Office of EU funds used to operate Tophaz and other similar institutions.

During an April 18 visit to Tophaz, MDAC monitors reported seeing people with multiple disabilities in beds surrounded by cage-like barriers, the use of physical restraints on residents kept behind closed doors without handles, and residents with untreated open wounds and signs of malnutrition.

The disability rights group filed a complaint with police about the allegations, some of which it said amounted to torture as defined by the United Nations convention against torture.

The Ministry of Human Resources, which oversees such institutions, did not comment on the report.

Bernadett Szel, a lawmaker from the green party Politics Can Be Different, was allowed to briefly visit parts of the home on Nov. 15, when MDAC was prevented from entering. Szel said she was shown only a "semblance of reality."

"It would be nice if it was so, but the harsh reality can be revealed only with hidden methods," Szel said.

Allen said that while Hungary was among the first countries to ratify the U.N. convention on the rights of persons with disabilities in 2007, it was failing to live up to its standards.

"All we're asking is for the Hungarian government not just to speak words, but to take actions," he said.

Figures from the Central Statistical Office cited by MDAC show that some 25,000 people in Hungary with intellectual disabilities and mental health issues have been placed in institutions.

Authorities estimate it would take 19 years to move them to smaller homes, Allen said.

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