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Report Documents Abuses at Mental Facilities in Kosovo - 2002-08-08

The United Nations said it is aware of abuses at mental facilities in Kosovo. But the United Nations is not to blame for the violations.

The independent advocacy group, Mental Disability Rights International spent two years investigating mental health facilities in the Serbian province of Kosovo, which is administered by the United Nations.

The group's researchers call their findings "appalling." A report issued this week documents daily human rights abuses, particularly against women.

They said patients at three mental health institutions in Kosovo "are victims of physical violence, rape, sexual exploitation and gross neglect." Investigators found that some patients were detained against their will under "filthy and degrading conditions."

U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said the United Nations is aware of the abuses and agrees that there are serious problems related to the treatment of the mentally ill and disabled in Kosovo. However, Mr. Eckhard denied that the United Nations is in charge of the facilities under question.

"The mission does not actually run mental institutions in Kosovo, which are the responsibilities of Kosovo's Ministry of Health, but it is working with local staff to try and improve the situation," Mr. Eckhard said. "The main problem in rectifying the problem in those institutions however is lack of resources."

Mr. Eckhard said the response from donors to Kosovo remains limited, posing a challenge to improving aspects of life in Kosovo, including the care of the mentally disabled.