Bosnians protest after photos of abuse of disabled children released

Bosnians have taken to the streets to protest against the government after photos were published of special needs children chained to beds and radiators in an official facility.

Over 1,000 people called for action outside a government building in the capital Sarajevo after images from inside the Pazaric care home were released by opposition politician Sabina Cudic.

Parents of disabled children joined the protest, describing the care system as dysfunctional, one that had seen their offspring excluded from society.

Ms Cudic demanded a parliamentary debate on the matter but the government has rejected the request.

The current boss of the home has defended staff and says the claims of abuse are untrue.

  • Sabina Cudic

Ms Cudic said she felt compelled to released the images to the public in order to shock her fellow Bosnians into action.

"This is not a shock to the government, there is long line of documented systemic abuse of funds and the patients," Ms Cudic said.

"In that sense it is hypocritical of the prime minister and the government to say that they are shocked.

"Because just two months ago, on 17th of October, they made a very explicit statement that they are very satisfied with the conditions in Pazaric and that the claims made are utterly false."

According to Ms Cudic, out of 149 employees at Pazaric, 27 are economists and the overnight shift is staffed by just one, untrained person.

"This is not the issue of one institution, the evidence is actually the illustration of systemic, widespread issue in Bosnia-Herzegovina, that gathers various elements, she said.

"One - being systemic corruption, that did not start year ago or two years ago or three years ago but decades ago.

"And this is the result of the past 30 years. So in a sense, this is nothing new.

"The shock effect, of course, is such because the pictures are involved, however, a series of reports have described in words exactly the situation."

Ms Cudic accused the facility's head of using the children to aid the renovation of their own home.

"It is documented that the patients have been used by the management, by the head of the institution, for the renovation of their private property at the expense of the institution," she claimed.

"So, people from the institution, were put on the bus, taken to the private property of the director and they were renovating his property, private property, in two Sarajevo neighbourhoods.

"So, this is public record, this in itself should have created a major outcry because that also constitutes, has elements of modern slavery....if you're taking patients to renovate your private property."

Ms Curic looking at one of the images in question. Credit: AP

One protester, Dalida Crnaja, the aunt of a child who died six years ago in a home for disabled children said: "Terrible, terrible, this is terrible.

"I think I would felt better if someone stabbed me in the heart. Pictures of my niece come to my eyes immediately.

"When I saw these pictures yesterday, my head was about to explode. Those children, tied up, crying..."

Over 1,000 people attended the protest. Credit: AP

In response to Ms Cudic, Redzep Salic, director of the Pazaric home for children defended his staff, saying the claims were untrue and the photos were old and could not have been taken since his appointment in the spring of 2018.

Mr Salic says an investigation will take place in order to prove Ms Cudic's allegations are untrue.

"We, the employees of the second pavilion are stating with full responsibility, that during 2019 there was no 'restraining' of our patients," he said.

"Also the sheets that we see in the pictures are not being used for quite a while now. Please, since I have been put as manager here, no one has ever received an order to do something like this.

"I am calling upon respected lawmaker Sabina (Cudic) to tell me which employees have done this, and I can guarantee that they will be sanctioned.

"We will conduct a full investigation on this, but I declare that this was never done here."

Redzep Salic was visibly upset when speaking to the media about the situation. Credit: AP

Mr Salic, who cried during a press conference, warned authorities last year of potential corruption undertaken by his predecessor but insisted things had improved under his stewardship.

"I am begging to protect them (workers of the institution)," a tearful Mr Salic stated.

"Their honest work should not be presented like this. All of those who filmed this, who watched this…today, on international children's day, to show pictures like this…being here in this home. This was directed against this home."