Access to justice for people with mental disabilities

Cornelia Cozonac
Europa Liberă

People with mental disabilities, who are often deprived of exercise capacity, regained their right to make safe decisions, to go to court and to manage their allowances and property. This category of people enjoys full exercise capacity starting with June 2018. However, many human rights defenders are worried that these people still lack handling skills and can be manipulated by former legal guardians or malicious individuals.

The UN Expert in Human Rights Xenia Simiciuc says that although the guardianship institution has been abolished,  in many cases, former guardians continue to make decisions instead of those they care for: "We often have negative cases when the legal guardians profit of people with disabilities, sell their goods, manage everything the person has, not in her best interest, which is why,  this reform needs to be facilitated as soon as possible, because without the consent of the person, without talking, decisions are taken that have serious consequences for this person's life".

People with mental disabilities were reinstated following a ruling by the Constitutional Court, that in late 2016 declared unconstitutional the provisions of the Civil Procedure Code that set the ban on persons declared as incapable of exercising their right of free access to the court and stipulated the nullity of the acts signed by them.

Moldovan Institute for Human Rights (IDOM) provides assistance to many people who have been deprived of goods lately and is trying to help others to prevent similar situations.

IDOM expert Dumitru Rusu appreciates the new protection measures, called judicial protection, but says these are not efficient enough to protect people with intellectual disabilities from abuse, and the authorities do not have the capacity to monitor each case to protect vulnerable people: "Hardly in 2017, the legislation was amended and you can no longer declare a person incapacitated. Guardianship does not exist, but there are 3 other forms under the umbrella called the judicial protection measures, that is, the temporary guardianship. Starting with June 2, 2018, everyone recovered their exercise capacity. There are several protection mechanisms. It is a better situation, but regretfully, you cannot anticipate any attempt to dispossess a person. "

Under the Civil Code, the exercise capacity is "the ability of the person to acquire through his own deed and to exercise civil rights, to assume personal civil obligations and to execute them."

The topic of depriving people with mental disabilities of exercise capacity has been approached in Your Right rubric in the past years. We have often discussed cases of concrete people and have notified authorities and experts about the need to re-instate these people. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, ratified by the Republic of Moldova eight years ago, expressly states in Article 12 that persons with disabilities have the right to be recognized anywhere as persons entitled to the law and they enjoy the same legal capacity as other persons in all aspects of life.

Experts suggest that people who have previously been deprived of exercise capacity or their relatives may require the aid of personal assistants to help them make the right decisions. This is provided by Social Assistance service. If property is seized or someone continues to make decisions in their place, they can access the state-guaranteed legal service, the People's Advocate, or Human Rights NGOs.

This is what the human rights expert Cornelia Adeola says: "So far, people deprived of their legal capacity could not go to court, they could not file a complaint; they could not be heard as witnesses. Now these rights were restored and people can go to court. "

The UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities insists that member countries should provide people with mental disabilities the right to make decisions like other citizens, on condition that they get the necessary support in decision-making.

There are over 50 thousand people with mental disabilities in the Republic of Moldova.

The material was broadcast by Radio Free Europe under the Your Right rubric.

Cornelia Cozonac
2019-05-01 14:23:00