Bulgarian Helsinki Committee again has access to psychiatric hospitals

After nine years in which BHC was denied access to the country’s psychiatric institutions, from the beginning of 2024, the organisation will be able to regularly visit these closed institutions to monitor the human rights of patients there.

This follows an agreement between the BHC and the Ministry of Health from the end of last year, which expresses a common will to protect the rights of persons accommodated in state psychiatric hospitals and ensure their well-being and social integration.

The Ministry of Health must ensure that BHC experts have access to these institutions. The Ministry also undertakes inspections of reports submitted by BHC. It takes measures to remedy any irregularities found by legal requirements and to assist our experts in monitoring the health care facilities.

The current Minister of Health, Prof. Hristo Hinkov, signed the agreement.

In 2021, the Council of Europe’s Committee against Torture once again found inhumane conditions in homes for mentally ill adults in Bulgaria. Their statement stated that since 2017, our state has been inactive about the violations identified, with “many of the recommendations made earlier have not been implemented or only partially implemented”. The Committee points out that its observations of physical abuse by staff of patients with mental disorders and people placed in social institutions, as well as the inappropriate - and in some cases illegal - use of immobilisation devices, have been downplayed by the responsible institutions. Budgetary constraints and a lack of specialists have justified inaction.

In April 2023, the Committee again visited our psychiatric hospitals and nursing homes for people with mental disorders, but no report of the visit has yet been published.