“The Croatian government should urgently heed the calls by United Nations disability rights experts to improve its disability rights record”, Human Rights Watch said Monday 27 April. Based on a submission made on 30th March 2015, the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities had on April 17, 2015, recommended that the Croatian government should do more to protect the rights of people with disabilities, including legal reform and ensuring that everyone with a disability who is in an institution has the opportunity to move into the community.
“The UN review leaves no doubt about the steps Croatia has to take to protect the rights of people with disabilities,” said Shantha Rau Barriga, disability rights director at Human Rights Watch. “The question now is whether the Croatian government will act quickly to carry out these reforms.”
Human Rights Watch found that more than 8,200 people in Croatia remain in segregated institutions, many of them without their consent. In particular, the committee voiced concern about the “high rate of child abandonment and institutionalization of children with disabilities.”
“The Croatian government needs to step up its efforts to ensure that everyone with disabilities trapped in state or private institutions, long-term care in psychiatric hospitals, and foster homes without their consent is part of the deinstitutionalization process,” Barriga said. “Croatia should invest in community-based housing and support so people with disabilities can live on their own with dignity.”
Well, I need to tell the Human Rights Watch: the only direction Croatian government must move quickly out of, is – out of government!
The previous HDZ (Croatian Democratic Union) government had in 2011 adopted a National Plan for Deinstitutionalisation and Transformation of Social Welfare Homes. The current government came into power in December 2011 and, to date, only 11 of 46 state institutions have begun this process of deinstitutionalisation since then. This is clearly a statement that says the government is simply not committed to the quality of life for people with disabilities.
“Move off if you cannot guarantee a future for the Croatian people,” said on Saturday 2 May 2015 about the government Djuro Glogoski, one of the leaders of disabled war veterans who have been protesting in Zagreb for war veteran rights in a protest camp set up over six months ago. The protesting war veterans organised Saturday 2 May a “Unity” rally in Zagreb which saw more than 50,000 people from all over Croatia fill the Ban Jelacic city square.
Then, Croatia saw during last week the Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic and his government begrudge the sizable financial donation President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic had announced to give to orphan children’s home (including children with disabilities) from the unspent funds donated to her presidential election campaign. The Prime Minister pointed the finger at the President saying she is avoiding paying taxes with this donation move via the HDZ Party (whose candidate she was for the presidency) even if such donation is legal and in compliance with Croatian law.
There’s no doubt that the UN Committee on Rights of Persons with Disabilities has and will have plenty to say about the state of rights and how people with disabilities are afforded access to exercise those rights in every country of the world, not just Croatia. Croatia is not isolated in things that urgently need changing or improving for the betterment of life for people with disabilities. Every truly democratic country is on a path to improve services, break the barriers – find ways for people with disabilities to be socially and otherwise included in the society in all the aspects of its existence. But, the level of institutionalisation and particularly involuntary institutionalisation needs to be eradicated urgently in Croatia; I couldn’t agree more with the UN Committee on Rights of People with Disabilities.
Not only has the record of this current Croatian government been appalling in matters emphasised by the UN Committee on Right of People with Disabilities but the rights of war veterans with disabilities have also seen distressing erosion.
Rights for people with disabilities, whether war veterans or children or ordinary citizens are clearly the last things these agitprops in government worry about. They are only too happy to build their political points, to sharpen their political daggers on the backs of people with disabilities. It’s a miserable government that evidently has problems with needy children receiving charitable donations; it’s a miserable government that sows nothing but hatred and resentment towards its disabled war veterans just because they have the strength to demand the rights they are entitled to; it’s a miserable government that has not lifted the needs of people with disabilities to a higher platform so that these needs can be met or at least solid processes put in place to meet them. I do hope that the strong spine and unwavering spirit of the fight for rights seen in the disabled war veterans last six months will spill over to the fight for rights for all people with disabilities in Croatia. Taking to the streets, demand resignations from government, may just be the right thing to do and the thing that will bring the needed outcomes. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)