“What [Mental Disability Advocacy Centre] claims to have seen simply does not exist,” said Károly Czibere, social affairs undersecretary with the Ministry of Human Resources during a committee hearing in parliament Wednesday.
Czibere was referring to a recent investigation by the Mental Disability Advocacy Centre (MDAC) that found incidences of abuse, torture and ill-treatment of patients with mental disabilities at the Topház Special home in Göd, Hungary. MDAC recommended the immediate closure of all Hungarian state-run institutions for people with disabilities after its investigation.
But the Hungarian government has rejected MDAC’s findings, taking issue with the way the investigation was conducted.
“Our investigations have found that MDAC entered the facility without permission and illegally took photographs,” Czibere said. “It did not have the right to take photographs without the permission of the children, and it published these photographs without the permission of the legal guardians. You cannot enforce the law by breaking it.”
Pro-government media outlets have been quick to conflate MDAC with Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros by pointing out that the NGO receives funding from Soros’ Open Society Foundation. Articles have been published with headlines such as “Another attempt to tarnish the reputation of our homeland?” and “It turns out that the claims of this newer Soros organization are lies”.
According to the undersecretary, the NGO’s photographs and on-scene report of the conditions at Topház do not serve as a basis for the serious findings published by the press.
The 31-page MDAC report published last week on the conditions at Topház found instances of serious abuse and neglect of adults and children with intellectual, cognitive, developmental, multiple and profound disabilities who are living there,
and torture or ill-treatment against residents: people with multiple disabilities inside metal cage beds, seclusion and physical restraint behind locked doors, a young boy in a makeshift straitjacket, untreated open wounds, and indications of malnutrition.
According to MDAC, “the conditions, abusive practices and evidence of violence seen in this institution are the result of systemic failings in law, policy and regulation, and a lack of effective and independent monitoring.”
But despite deflections and denials in the pro-government media, the director of Topház was suspended shortly after the MDAC report was published. Media reports have also indicated that Topház employees had pushed for an investigation of the institute since 2016.