BHC Filed Sixth ECHR Case against Bulgaria on Behalf of a Child from an Institution

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Dimitar Rossenov was 2 years and 8 months old when, in 2003, his only functioning hand (the other being paralyzed at birth) was amputated at the elbow due to necrosis, caused by prolonged tightening from a "glove" and elastics. 

The staff had taken these measures to prevent Dimitar from putting his hand in his mouth and vomiting, which he did because his throat was burning due to severe and untreated gastroesophageal reflux disease.

After media reports came to light, the Ministry of Health and the Agency for Child Protection investigated the case and discovered that the hand of Dimitar had been firmly bound for more than a day without a doctor's prescription, the staff failed to provide monitoring of the state of the child, his illness was not properly recorded, nor were any changes in condition noted. The head of the housing facility was reprimanded.

Despite the proven need of constant medical observation for Dimitar, the state later on accommodated him in the home for juveniles with mental disabilities in the village of Vidrare, which is not a hospital. He now lives in a housing facility.

Request to represent

Since 2013, the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (BHC) has sent many letters to the prosecution, demanding a proper investigation of the serious injury caused to Dimitar. Later, the organization expressed its worries about the terminated pre-trial proceedings.

On February 14, 2017, the BHC appealed at the European Court of Human Rights and urged the court to recognize the BHC's right to appeal on behalf of the child who is unable to form and express his will before the court because of his mental disabilities, and because his relatives have never shown any concern about him, nor has his country appointed a guardian.

The protection of institutionalized children with disabilities is one of the main activities of the BHC. Because of the refusal of the prosecution to investigate the criminal abuse of children in the so-called "homes" in 2009 the BHC filed a lawsuit against Bulgaria’s Office of the Prosecutor for violating the act protecting against discrimination. The suit claimed that when children from such homes are mentally handicapped and without family members or others to advocate for them, the prosecution is obliged to investigate when there is clear evidence of their severe neglect and high mortality.

6 years, 0 prosecutions

In 2010, Chief Prosecutor Boris Velchev got in touch with the BHC and asked for collaboration. Joint surveys of the BHC and the prosecutors were made in all of the similar 26 "homes”. A lot of data was found about a huge number of deaths of children - 238 in 10 years, mainly because of malnutrition and neglect.

Since then, the BHC has been monitoring more than 240 pre-trial proceedings and prosecution files for a total number of 350 children. Through over six years of investigation, the prosecution has not brought mistreatment charges in a single case. Instead, it invariably ends any investigation before reaching a courtroom.

In that same period, the BHC filed complaints to the European Court of Human Rights in five cases.

Although the process of deinstitutionalizing began years ago, and there is agreement for the closure of a large number of homes for medical and social care, no plan on how to proceed in the future has been mapped out, and that’s why these "homes" still exist and accept new children.