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Romania: Court rules on Roma teenager’s psychiatric hospital death

Judges say Romania breached the human rights of a Roma teenager who died whilst under a psychiatric hospital’s care.

Following today’s judgement in the case of Centre For Legal Resources (CLR) On Behalf Valentin Câmpeanu v. Romania (application no. 47848/08), the European Court of Human Rights held that Romania was to pay 10,000 euros (EUR) to the CLR and EUR 25,000 to the organisation Interights, which acted as advisor to counsel for the CLR before the Court.

The European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:

a violation of Article 2 (right to life) of the European Convention on Human Rights, in both its substantive and its procedural aspects,
and
a violation of Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) in conjunction with Article 2.

The Centre For Legal Resources (CLR) non-governmental organisation, was allowed to bring the case before the court on behalf of Câmpeanu, a young man of Roma origin – who was HIV positive and suffering from a severe mental disability – who died in the Poiana Mare Neuropsychiatric Hospital (PMH) in 2004.

The court found that, in the exceptional circumstances of the case, and bearing in mind the serious nature of the allegations, it was open to the NGO to act as a representative of Câmpeanu, even though the organisation was not itself a victim of the alleged violations of the convention.

As regards the complaints under Article 2, the court found in particular: that Câmpeanu had been placed in medical institutions which were not equipped to provide adequate care for his condition; that he had been transferred from one unit to another without proper diagnosis; and, that the authorities had failed to ensure his appropriate treatment with antiretroviral medication.

The authorities, aware of the difficult situation – lack of personnel, insufficient food and lack of heating – in the psychiatric hospital where he had been placed, had unreasonably put his life in danger. Furthermore, there had been no effective investigation into the circumstances of his death.

Finding that the violations of the convention in Câmpeanu’s case reflected a wider problem, the court recommended Romania to take the necessary general measures to ensure that mentally disabled persons in a comparable situation were provided with independent representation enabling them to have complaints relating to their health and treatment examined before an independent body.

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