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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 October, 2003, 15:45 GMT 16:45 UK
Russia 'abuses children's rights'
Life in an internat is described as
Amnesty: Children are consigned to an utterly meaningless life
Human rights group Amnesty International has accused Russia of violating the human rights of children with learning disabilities.

The children are condemned to an "utterly meaningless life" in close confinement and with little or no sensory stimulation, it says.

The accusation comes in a wide-ranging report on Russian human rights, called Rough Justice, issued on Thursday.

It says the institutionalisation of children harks back to the Soviet era.

Amnesty staff wrote the report after visiting children's homes known as internats.

No education

They were particularly troubled by the treatment of children with learning disabilities, including Down's Syndrome.

Much is wrong with human rights in Russia but the callous institutionalisation of children stands out - it harks back to Soviet-era attitudes of contempt for the human rights of individuals
Lesley Garner
The report says they are often taken from their parents at birth and condemned to live out their lives in a home with two nurses per 100 children and no education programme.

"Children with learning disabilities are written off as 'uneducable' and as suffering from 'idiocy'," said Amnesty spokesman, Lesley Warner.

He added: "Russia must ensure that the best interests of the child become the key factor in deciding the future of Russia's vulnerable children."

No law

Amnesty says Russia currently has no law protecting the interests of children.

It adds that even parents cannot request a review of decisions placing their children in institutions.

It calls on the Russian parliament to:

  • Prescribe criteria and procedures for separating children from their family
  • Guarantee child-centred treatment and systematic review of placements
  • Stipulate that all decisions are subject to review by independent court
  • Allow children an independent expert, who will seek their view and intervene on their behalf if necessary.


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