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Report Reveals Abuse of Disabled at Institution

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Report Reveals Abuse of Disabled at Institution

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Archive photo. Photo: Páll Stefánsson.

A report published yesterday sheds light on the harsh and inhumane treatment of children who stayed at Kópavogshæli, an institution for the disabled, which was operated in Kópavogur, Southwest Iceland, from 1952 to 1993, RÚV reports.

According to the report, which was done by a special committee on institutions, children at Kópavogshæli suffered physical and psychological abuse, both at the hands of staff members and other residents. The children were housed in the same quarters as adults until 1972, when a special children’s unit was opened.

Close to one hundred out of the 178 people who were placed at the institution as children are still alive, according to RÚV. They could be entitled to compensation. ISK 80 million (USD 700,000, EUR 660,000) is reserved for the payment of such compensation in this year’s government budget. In recent years, more than ISK 2 billion (USD 17.6 million, EUR 16.5 million) has been paid out in compensation, due to ill treatment of children at state-run institutions in Iceland during the latter part of the 20th century.

The committee criticizes authorities for a lack of a clear legal policy regarding what sort of institution Kópavogshæli was meant to be. Health authorities failed to live up to their duty to monitor the operation of the facility.

The abuse suffered by the children is believed to have been physical, emotional and intellectual. In addition, they were neglected to a point where their safety and care was compromised. Information is available about isolated cases of sexual abuse, committed by other residents. The children are said to have suffered permanent damage as a result of neglect.

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