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Mental Disability Rights Initiative of Serbia (MDRI-Serbia) is an advocacy organization dedicated to the human rights and full participation in society of children and adults with mental disabilities in Serbia. MDRI-Serbia promotes citizen participation, awareness and oversight for the rights of persons with intellectual and mental disabilities, and participates in development of mental disability rights advocacy and self-advocacy movement in Serbia. The organization’s special focus is on those children and adults who are at risk of or who are already residing in social and mental health institutions, since they represent the most endangered and marginalized group.

Human rights of children and adults with mental disabilities are guaranteed by many national and international regulations including the UN Universal Declaration for Human Rights, UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and UN Convention in the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, UN Convention Against Torture, European Convention on Prevention of Torture, as well as other national and international legal acts and standards. Those serve as our tool in monitoring of and reacting to human rights abuses perpetrated against persons with mental disabilities, taking place both in segregated institutions, and in families.

Established in 2008 as an independent organization, MDRI-Serbia is drawing on the skills and rich experience of its members. MDRI-Serbia staff has extensive experience in advocating for and monitoring of human rights of people with mental disabilities. As members of the Disability Rights International team they run research and produced report “Torment not Treatment: Serbia’s Segregation and Abuse of Children and Adults with Disabilities”. MDRI-Serbia continues to enjoy extensive support from Disability Rights International. Participation of persons with mental disabilities and their families presents the only guarantee for protection of their rights. Only strengthened persons with mental disabilities and their families, through their participation in all decision-making processes dealing with their lives, can secure long-lasting sustainability. Nevertheless, persons with mental disabilities will always need some level of support to retain ownership over their lives. This much needed support should come from the society as a whole; however, the specific role of civil society organizations is to provide these individuals with support in capacity building and advocacy actions. MDRI-Serbia has involved parents of persons with intellectual disabilities in legislative processes, ensuring their participation in development of the Law on professional rehabilitation and employment of persons with disabilities and General Education Act, both already adopted. Currently, MDRI-Serbia staff is participating in the development of the Law on social welfare. MDRI-Serbia with its partners also provides professional and legal support information for persons with intellectual disabilities and their families, especially in two areas crucial for prevention of institutionalization: inclusive education and legal capacity issues. Successful advocacy implies strong and efficient cooperation with other organizations. Through dialogue and cooperation with persons with disabilities and their families, organizations of persons with disabilities, non-governmental organizations, government representatives and other stakeholders, MDRI-Serbia participates in development of strategies to bring about effective rights enforcement and service system reform in Serbia. In cooperation with Serbian civil society organizations, MDRI-Serbia is constantly pushing Serbian authorities to follow their reform oriented goals and is warning them each time their activities jeopardize human rights of persons with mental disabilities. Recent example are critics about the ongoing establishment and funding of forms of non-residential care which are not in compliance with the principles of social inclusion and in reality perpetrate segregation of persons with mental disabilities. MDRI-Serbia is cooperating with and reporting to different national and international agencies and human rights bodies, such as state authorities, Serbian Ombudsman, EU and UN bodies. Through public appearances and actions, MDRI-Serbia is combating prejudices and developing positive public opinion about the rights of persons with mental disabilities. MDRI activites include:

  • Building capacity of self-advocacy groups and other non-governmental organizations to advocate for the rights of children/adults with mental disabilities;
  • Educating persons with disabilities, professionals, policy-makers, government officials, and other stakeholders;
  • Conducting public discussions and conferences;
  • Running media campaigns to raise public awareness about the rights of children/adults with mental disabilities;
  • Issuing publications on different topics concerning children/adults with mental disabilities;
  • Overseeing and reporting about abuses and human rights violations perpetrated against children/adults with mental disabilities;
  • Networking with national and international organizations for the purpose of achieving greater impact in advocating for and in protection of the rights of children/adults with mental disabilities.

Contact Information: Mental Disability Rights Initiative of Serbia Address: Bulevar Kralja Aleksandra 171, 11000 Belgrade Serbia Tel/Fax: +381 11 3837 204/ +381 11 3837 205 Mobile: + 381 60 406 88 33 Email: [email protected]