Some disabled children still mistreated in Romania, reports says

An advocacy organization charged Wednesday that Romania warehouses mentally ill and retarded children in adult institutions in filthy and degrading conditions.

The report by Mental Disability Rights International could be a setback for the former communist country as it seeks support to enter the European Union next year. The European Commission, the EU's executive body, is due to issue a major report on Romania's prospects next week.

Romania's poor treatment of the mentally ill, especially children, became known after dictator Nicolae Ceausescu was overthrown and executed in 1989. While conditions are vastly improved, the EU has pressed for greater reforms.

Responding to the advocacy group's report, a Romanian government official, Bogdan Panait, said progress has been made in children's rights, "but there are still many things left to be done."

Panait, state secretary for the National Authority for Protection of Children's Rights, conceded that problems existed and told The Associated Press that some of the most serious problems should be resolved by the end of the year.

The report described children who were tied or shackled in chairs or who lay in fetid beds all day, some bound tightly with sheets. Such restraints were used to keep them from harming themselves.

Many of the children incessantly hurt themselves: a boy repeatedly poked his fingers into his eyes; children bit their arms or hands, leaving bloody sores.

MDRI's Laurie Ahern, the report's co-author, spoke with The Associated Press about the conditions at a ward with 60 babies.

"There was no sound," she said. "There was no cooing; there was no baby crying. It was complete silence, and it was very eerie and strange."

She said it was obvious that time in the ward changed the infants. A two-month old was at least responsive, but the two-year-olds "had been in those cribs for two years, other than being changed and given a bottle they were not held, they were not touched, they could not walk, they were not crawling, they were just laying in those cribs," reports the AP.


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