On 16 January 2012, a group of individuals visited the home of children's rights defender Mrs Vera Drobinskaya and attempted to take her seven foster children from her. Vera Drobinskaya has been subjected to a campaign of harassment after denouncing violations of the rights of children living in a home for mentally disabled children in the village of Raznochinovka, in the region of Astrakhan. She is a former neo-natologist and is the legal guardian of seven disabled children, four of whom had been living at the Raznochinovka children's home.
On 16 January 2012, at approximatively 5.30 pm, a group of around ten individuals called to the home of Vera Drobinskaya to take her seven foster children to a rehabilitation centre. The group included a representative of the local police, two representatives from the children's home, a representative of the Ministry of Social Development and Labour and a psychologist from the rehabilitation centre. According to information received, none of the group showed any identification documents. They failed to produce the requisite legal document authorising them to take the children away. On that basis Vera Drobinskaya refused to allow the children to be taken from her and signed a statement to that effect.
The group informed Vera Drobinskaya that they had come to her home following a letter they had received that day from the pastor of the local Lutheran church Vera Zauer, which alleged that the human rights defender had been subjecting the children to ill-treatment. However, none of the allegations set out in the letter had been verified. Since she took the children into her care, many years ago, the foster family has been subject to reviews by social and medical services, none of which revealed any problems with the way the children were being cared for.
Vera Drobinskaya took her first foster child into her care in 2003 and the seventh in 2008. All seven suffer from serious illnesses, have received medical care and have gone through social rehabilitation. They are all currently attending normal school, including those who had been considered to be mentally retarded and to have learning disabilities.
The conflict between Vera Drobinskaya and Raznochinovka children's home started in 2006, when she lodged a complaint with the Russian Federation's General Prosecutor's office concerning the ill-treatment of her foster children in the children's home. She denounced the living conditions, the lack of medical care, the ill-treatment, the high level of mortality and the violations of the right to education of the children living there. However, the inspection which was carried out following her complaint found no results of the children's rights having been violated.
In February 2011, Vera Drobinskaya wrote again to the General Prosecutor's office requesting an investigation to be carried out to identify those buried in the cemetery on the grounds of the children's home, to investigate why the graves remain unmarked and whether the children buried there received adequate medical care before they died, and to find out what happened to the children's personal belongings after they died. Volunteers who used to work at the children's home have also sent a letter to the General Prosecutor's office denouncing violations of the rights of the children they worked with. The first inspection carried out revealed only minor violations of the children's rights. However, following repeated letters sent by Vera Drobinskaya to the General Prosecutor's office and to the Investigative Committee, several further inspections were carried out, each of them revealing new abnormalities in the running of the childrens home and more violations of the children's rights. The case of Raznochinovka children's home subsequently became notorious due to publications in the regional and federal press, and attracted a lot of public attention to the children's home as well as to the Ministry of Social Development and Labour of Astrakhan.
In the two months which followed Vera Drobinskaya's letter to the General Prosecutor's office in February 2011, the Ministry of Social Development and Labour of Astrakhan ordered eight inspections of the Drobinskaya's family. None of which revealed any violations of children's rights. Despite this pressure, Vera Drobinskaya continues to fight for the respect of children's rights in Raznochinovka children's home.
Front Line Defenders denounces the campaign of harassment against Vera Drobinskaya and her seven foster children who live under huge stress. It believes that such a campaign and the recent attempt to take the children from her care are directly related to her fight for the rights of disabled children living at Raznochinovka children's home, and to the fact public attention has resulted from her work.
Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in the Russian Federation to:
- Carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the harassment of Vera Drobinskaya, in particular into the visit by the group of individuals to Vera Drobinskaya's home on 16 January 2012 and the attempt to take her foster children from her care, with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;
- Take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of Vera Drobinskaya and her children;
- Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in the Russian Federation are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.
for actions see http://frontlinedefenders.org/node/17191/action