SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina -- The government of one of Bosnia’s two autonomous parts on Friday fired members of the oversight team of a public care home, yielding to popular pressure after an opposition lawmaker published photos of abuse of special needs children.
The decision was taken the day after public protests triggered by photos of children restrained in an inhuman fashion, including by being tied to radiators or left crying on beds in straitjackets.
The photos were released by an opposition lawmaker, Sabina Cudic, who said she was frustrated by the government’s inaction.
"As a citizen and as a minister, I am truly shocked with the facts and implications that came to light," said Vesko Drljaca, the minister of labor and social policy in the government of the Bosniak-Croat Federation.
"That special needs children were affected makes it even more shocking," he added.
However, while the government officials were announcing their decision, several hundred people protested outside the government building in downtown Sarajevo.
Upon hearing the news, the crowd that included parents of special needs children, pledged to continue protesting the government's hesitation and lack of transparency.
"Replacing (the members of the oversight team) is not enough, not any more," said Muhic Medina, mother of a 8-year-old disabled boy.
"We want those responsible for wrongdoing that has been going on for years to be prosecuted and everyone who has any responsibility for allowing this to happened to be replaced," she added.
Other protesters, who carried banners decrying government corruption and incompetence, echoed her sentiment.
The Pazaric home for special needs children was already under investigation on suspicion of financial misconduct by a previous manager and other executive staff appointed by the government of the Bosniak-Croat Federation. The implicated manager and some other members of staff were replaced last spring.
However, authorities had previously refused to replace members of government-appointed management and supervisory boards for failing to spot what appears to have been multilayered, gross and prolonged misconduct.
Cudic, who said she released the photos after government and parliament ignored her repeated official requests for suspicion of child abuse to also be investigated, previously said the government "knew all the facts."
"The prime minister and his government, knowing all the facts, all the horrific evidence about treatment of patients, (are) still hiding, protecting, still employing, paying from taxpayers money the perpetrators of these crimes," she told The Associated Press in an interview.
"Just because of political party membership and political party interests," she added, insisting that the Pazaric care home was emblematic of the entire system in Bosnia of institutional care of persons with disabilities.