Special Olympics Host Country Faces Disability Abuse Allegations
With the Special Olympics World Games underway in Athens, Greece this week, Human Rights Watch is calling out the country for failing to take action on long-standing abuse allegations at a facility for those with developmental disabilities.
The facility — known as the Children’s Care Center of Lechaina — has insufficient staffing and is known to have individuals with disabilities tied to beds, placed in wooden cage beds and systematically sedated, according to the human rights group. Moreover, they say there are reports of beatings at the center.
In a letter earlier this month to Greek officials, Human Rights Watch and the European Disability Forum said investigations into the matter date back to at least 2009 and concerns have been raised with the country’s Ministry of Health.
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Now the issue is taking on new meaning as Greece plays host to the Special Olympics World Games, which run through next Monday. The event is bringing together 7,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities from around the world.
“If Greece is serious about the ideals of the Special Olympics, it should not ignore documented abuses of children and adults with disabilities right under its nose,” said Shantha Rau Barriga, an advocate at Human Rights Watch. “The government should end the use of cage beds, sedation and routine restraints in the Lechaina center.”
Special Olympics officials said they were previously unaware of the abuse allegations, but see their events as “an opportunity to build understanding and promote the dignity and respect of all people with intellectual disabilities.”
“We know there is a long battle ahead of us in fighting the injustices that happen to people with intellectual disabilities and that is the reason why we strive to build a global community of respect,” Special Olympics spokeswoman Kirsten Suto Seckler said in a statement to Disability Scoop.