Cases of punitive psychiatry

Cases of punitive psychiatry in countries of the OSCE in 2013
Analytical note

In 2012 human rights organisations noted at least two attempts to use psychiatry as a method of pressuring human rights defenders and civic activists – it is that there are other cases that have not yet been brought to light.

So far in 2013, at least four cases of the political use of psychiatry have taken place – in Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Russia.

1. Ukraine
A district court in the city of Zaporizhia decided on 11 July 2013 to send a local civic activist, Raisa Radchanko, to compulsory medical treatment at the Zaporizhia Regional Mental Hospital. The activist considers this sentence be revenge of the local authorities for her civic activism. She is known for fighting against corruption in local administrative and law enforcement bodies. Previously Raisa Radchanko worked as a deputy head of the district administration and vice-rector of a university in Kyiv.

On 26 July 2013, she was released from hospital for out-patient treatment. She received no medical reports or other documents related to her treatment, including a report on the results of an inspection by the Ministry of Health Care. (http://www.radiosvoboda.org/content/article/25058853.html) On 12 August 2013, the Appeals Court of Zaporizhia Region reversed the district court’s initial judgement on compulsory medical treatment. (http://www.radiosvoboda.org/content/article/25073327.html) The situation was resolved because of an active campaign to support Raisa Radchanko by human rights organisations and the involvement of the Ombudsman of the Ukrainian Parliament . (http://blogs.pravda.com.ua/authors/groysman/51f294b44e7df/)

2. Kazakhstan
On 9 August 2013, Zinaida Muratova, a lawyer from the town of Balkhash, was forcefully taken from her home to a mental hospital by police officers, nurses and a doctor. The human rights community of Kazakhstan considered the incident to be a response to her human rights activities. http://tirek.org/index.php/component/k2/item/350-mukhortova) On 20 August, judge Mayra Ibragimova granted a request by the local prosecutor’s office for Muratova’s compulsory medical treatment. The lawyer was diagnosed with “a chronic delusional disorder.”

On 2 September, a commission of the Karaganda Regional Department of Health Care visited the mental hospital in Balkhash and concluded that Zinaida Muratova does not need compulsory medical treatment. But the head doctor of the hospital refused to discharge the patient, thus violating the law. On 30 September, Zinaida Muratova was sent to Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, for another independent examination; the check-up has not started yet and she is being kept at the Astana Medical Center of Mental Health. (http://rus.azattyq.org/content/interview-s-zinaidoi-mukhortovoi/25130403.html)
Previously, Zinaida Muratova was sent for 11 months of compulsory medical treatment in a mental hospital with intensive supervision of a prison-like nature for submitting appeals against Mr. Nigmatulin, a deputy of the Parliament of Kazakhstan and the brother of the Speaker of the lower house. On 27 September 2013, an appeals court upheld a previous decision to send her for compulsory medical treatment dating from 2011.

3. Belarus
Over the course of several years, Ihar Pastnou, a psychiatrist at the Vitsebsk Regional Clinical Centre of Psychiatry and Narcology, had criticized government policy and the local health care system in YouTube videos, including medical errors and the misuse of budget funds.

In June 2013 Pastnou criticised the compulsory hospitalisation of homeless people for psychiatric testing. Pastnou’s critical comments lead to a serious conflict with the management of the Centre. On 16 August 2013, an ad-hoc commission of the clinical centre where he worked concluded he needed compulsory treatment in connection with his “psychopathy with delirium of persecution by the authorities.” On 21 August, the Vitsebsk district court decided to send Ihar Pastnou for compulsory medical treatment in connection with a “chronic delusional disorder” that allegedly was dangerous for him and those around him. The court decision did not specify the danger he represents, but his YouTube videos were mentioned. On 20 September 2013, Amnesty International demanded his release. (http://amnesty.org.ru/node/2563) He was transferred from the hospital to out-patient treatment on the same day. (http://www.open.by/country/112709)

4. Russia
Mikhail Kosenko, a participant in a demonstration at Bolotnaya Square in Moscow on 6 May 2012, was sentenced on 8 October 2013 to indefinite compulsory psychiatric treatment at a mental hospital. He was found guilty of participation in mass riots and violence against a police officer.

Kosenko has suffered from continuous sluggish schizophrenia for the last 12 years. Expert assessment done within the framework of the investigation resulted in a harsher diagnosis of “paranoid schizophrenia.” As a result he was not sentenced to a prison term, but to compulsory medical treatment.

Experts who monitored Kosenko’s trial, including international observers of the Civic Solidarity Platform, note facts that compromise independence of the court and the principles of the adversarial nature of the trial and the presumption of innocence. (http://www.civicsolidarity.org/ru/article/811/delo-kosenko-nablyudateli-otmechayut-narusheniya, http://ogonwatch.org/node/74) Independent psychiatrists note that experts from the Serbski Centre, who conducted an official assessment of Kosenko’s mental state, used a broad definition of schizophrenia and an arbitrary classification of the disease without a proper basis; they claim the official assessment was not impartial and comprehensive. (http://npar.ru/news/131001-sav.htm)

There are additional concerns about current discussions in Russia about broadening the use of compulsory medical treatment of mental disorders and new approaches to defining of “a person, who is dangerous to society.” On 11 September, Russian Public Television broadcast a discussion dedicated to this issue with the participation of psychiatrists and lawyers. http://www.otr-online.ru/programmi/programmparts_7680.html)

Previously, in March 2013, Oleg Panteleev, a member of upper house of Parliament, said that the current law on psychiatry, which was adopted in 1992, was “deliberately liberal.” According to Mr. Panteleev, there must be a balance between this law and a Soviet repressive approach to compulsory treatment, implying a need to decrease the authority of the courts in deciding on the necessity of compulsory psychiatric treatment.

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