Gays back disabled protest in Gibraltar
Peter Tatchell supports parents’ demand for a Public Inquiry
Chief Minister criticised for “not acting on parents’ concerns”
Gibraltar Government accused of “indifference, silence and neglect”
Gibraltar – 1 October 2007
Gibraltar’s Chief Minister, Peter Caruana, was heckled by protesters tonight – including gay rights campaigners Peter Tatchell and Felix Alvarez – over allegations of abuse at a disabled care home on The Rock.
As he arrived to attend a televised public debate with other political leaders ahead of Gibraltar’s 11 October general election, the head of the government of Gibraltar faced chants of “Caruana Shame! You’re to blame.”
The protesters, who comprised mostly disabled people and their families, carried placards demanding an independent public inquiry.
They were joined by human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who is currently in Gibraltar on a fact-finding mission at the invitation of local human rights groups, including disabled activists.
Also in attendance was Gibraltar’s leading gay rights campaigner, Felix Alvarez, chair of Gibraltar Gay Rights. Alvarez helped organise the protest, “as part of GGR’s outreach and solidarity with other minority communities on The Rock,” he said.
Peter Tatchell added:
“The disabled and gay communities share a common interest in working together to tackle prejudice and discrimination. The disabled community includes gay people, and the gay community includes disabled people. Some of people are part of both communities. It is very important that we all support each other. This includes challenging
disability discrimination on the gay scene and ensuring that venues are disabled accessible and welcoming,” he said.
In Gibraltar, a number of past and present employees, senior social services staff and parents of patients, have made serious allegations of physical and sexual abuse at the Dr Giraldi Home for disabled children and adults.
According to parents of Dr Giraldi residents, these allegations have never been properly investigated.
They accuse the government of Gibraltar of “indifference, silence and neglect.”
Chief Minister, Peter Caruana, is being criticised for “not acting on parents’ concerns.”
Protesters say that he “bears ultimate responsibility for what happens at the Dr Giraldi Home and that he has, so far, ignored calls for an independent investigation.”
The allegations, variously concerning past and present conditions at Dr Giraldi, are unproven, but demand a public inquiry. They include allegations of: insufficient health and safety procedures, poor controls on access to medication, severe understaffing, few employees specifically trained in disability issues or in dealing with challenging behaviour, a substandard fire alarm system, serious medication errors, missing class A drugs, residents left at night unattended, broken wheelchairs, patients’ / respite users’ personal money unaccounted for, and alleged sexual abuse.
“We are not saying these allegations are true,” said Felix Alvarez of GGR.
“But that they are sufficiently grave to require a thorough-going independent public inquiry. An inquiry would sort fact from fiction.
“Although I have much sympathy for the many caring, compassionate staff members at Dr Giraldi, these allegations may suggest systemic failings,” he said.
Alvarez’s concerns are echoed by Peter Tatchell, who has met with family members and disabled rights campaigners during his visit to The Rock:
“The best way to resolve the concerns of parents and staff is for the Chief Minister to authorise a full and frank investigation,” said Mr Tatchell.
“It is astonishing that no public inquiry has taken place, despite these allegations having been first made three years ago.
“Neither the families nor anybody else understands why the Chief Minister has failed to set up a public inquiry. Both the patients and their families deserve justice,” said Mr Tatchell.
Peter Tatchell and Felix Alvarez, Chair GGR
00 34 649675608 or 00 350 54003981
Peter Tatchell is the Green Party parliamentary candidate for Oxford East
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