PRESS RELEASE: Bulgarian Helsinki Committee brings institutionalized child death to the European Court of Human Rights

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The girl was left to swallow 25 shoe insoles, eight rags, three sponges, six socks, three pieces of paper and three stones, dies of stomach perforation


The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (BHC) has brought an application concerning the death of a girl in an institution for children with mental disabilities to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). 

The BHC will hold the Bulgarian authorities responsible for the death of A.I. from the Straja Institution for Children with Mental Disabilities. A. died from perforation of the stomach at the age of 15 in 2006. Doctors removed 25 shoe insoles, eight rags, three sponges, six socks, three pieces of paper and three 3-4 cm stones from her stomach, but were unable to save her life.

The Prosecutor's Office failed to establish any individuals responsible for the girl’s death. The investigation focused solely on the actions of the hospital staff. There was no examination of the actions of the institution staff who allowed the child to swallow such a tremendous amount of objects. The reason for this was never determined.

After the joint inspections with the Prosecutor's Office in all childcare institutions and after receiving the Prosecutor's Office's promise to investigate all child deaths and make public the facts relating to each and every one of them, the BHC appealed the ruling for the termination of the pretrial proceedings into A.I.’s death insisting that an investigation of the reasons for the girl's death is carried out. In November 2011 the Supreme Prosecutor's Office of Cassation finally confirmed the termination of the proceedings failing to address the issue of the responsibility of the people who allowed the self-destruction of the child to take place.   

Before the ECtHR the BHC holds that A.I.’s right to life, her right to protection from inhuman and degrading treatment, right to privacy, right to an effective remedy and right to protection from discrimination have been violated. The BHC believes that had this not been a case of a child with mental disabilities, deprived of family and community support, neither the social workers not the penal authorities would have neglected the child’s life.