BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — The director of a home for people with disabilities has been suspended after a report from a civic group made serious claims of abuse and neglect, Hungarian authorities said Thursday.
The Mental Disability Advocacy Center found multiple signs of ill-treatment among the 220 residents at the Tophaz Special Home near Budapest. Experts said the some of the allegations amounted to torture as defined by United Nations conventions.
During an April 18 visit, 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 State Secretariat of Social Affairs and Inclusion also said it plans to close the home "in the near future" as part of a program to move 2,500 people to smaller homes from large institutions by the end of 2018.
"What happened at the Tophaz Special Home is shocking and unacceptable," the state secretariat said in a statement. "The aim of the government is to eliminate the large institutions and place people with disabilities and psychiatric illnesses in a more family-like environment."
MDAC called on the government to allow civic groups to monitor other institutions like Tophaz and consult with them about future steps, something the authorities seemed to agree to.
MDAC met Thursday afternoon with Karoly Czibere, State Secretary for Social Affairs and Inclusion, who, according to the advocates, committed to "improving collaboration between the government and MDAC" and vowed to allow MDAC monitors access, with some conditions, to all Hungarian state residential institutions for persons with disabilities.
"This is a positive step," said MDAC campaigns director Steve Allen. "However, MDAC reiterates that human rights monitoring must be independent, and all social care institutions in Hungary must immediately be opened up to independent monitoring by Hungarian and international civil society."
The group also called on authorities to provide emergency assistance, reparations and independent legal representation to the victims, and publish financial accounts for all institutions in Hungary for the past 10 years, including funds from the European Union.