No. 2 - September 2004


By Igor Girich / Russia
News from the East:
A report from Russia

Since the days of publishing first ZWANG we have a lot of events in Russia.
First one lets us to hope that positive changes are still possible.

"Rakevich vs. Russia"

-The reason is following. In October, 2003, The European Court of Human Rights has recommended Russia to change its laws on coercive psychiatric treatment. The case "Rakevich vs. Russia" was won by Tamara Rakevich, who was forcedly placed into a psychiatric institution.
Below there is a description of this by Russian newspaper "Gazeta" (in shortened form; you can see the full text in English at
Tamara Rakevich, who was forcedly kept in Ekaterinburg psychiatric hospital without any sufficient grounds, will receive by a decision of the Court an indemnification of 3,000 Euros.
The 42-years old inhabitant of Ekaterinburg, Tamara Rakevich, was placed in Ekaterinburg psychiatric hospital No.26 on September 26, 1999. An occasion for the coercive treatment was given by her acquaintance. As reported by Rakevich's lawyer, Anna Demeneva, to "Gazeta.Ru", her client came to her acquaintance's home to discuss some religious questions.
A joint perusal of the Bible and a discussion of theological questions ended with a conflict. The acquaintance of the victim, having noticed that she cried during the perusal of the Bible, decided to call psychiatrists. In addition, the religious beliefs of the victim, an orthodox Christian, seemed strange to her acquaintance, who belongs to the Jehovah church.
The psychiatrists who arrived on call ascertained that Tamara Rakevich was in a "disturbing condition" and that, in their opinion, was the sufficient basis for coercive treatment in a psychiatric hospital.
Tamara was kept in Ekaterinburg psychiatric hospital No.26 for 39 days without a final decision by the court on the necessity of treatment. In the hospital doctors found out that the patient was in a condition of severe mental frustration and was completely disoriented. According to the statement by the doctors, the patient refused to cooperate with them.
On September 28 and 29, 1999, psychiatrists at the hospital determined on their consultation that the patient suffered from "paranoid schizophrenia" and prescribed a treatment corresponding to the diagnosis.

Thus, according to Rakevich's lawyer, despite the unwillingness of her client, she underwent the forced drug treatment. According to the doctors reports, during the whole course of Rakevich's "psychiatric correction", she behaved coldly and wrote complaints all the time.
On November 5, 1999 an Ekaterinburg regional court, at the request of the psychiatrists, made a decision about the validity of Rakevich's detention for coercive psychiatric treatment. She wrote complaints, but they, as usually, had no effect.
Demeneva insisted that the regional court acted illegally, unfairly having delayed consideration of the case. So the decision of the court was accepted in 39 days instead of only 5, as stipulated under the law. The basis of all arguments that Rakevich's actions represented a threat to others was disproved by her lawyers.
Considering all the circumstances of Rakevich's case, the Court in Strasbourg has decided that the decision of the Russian court contradicts Article 1, Paragraph 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which states that "Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be deprived of his liberty save in the following cases and in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law". This procedure was not taken into account by the Ekaterinburg judges. In addition the court has obliged the government of the Russian Federation to pay 3,000 Euros in national currency to the claimant within three months. In addition, it was offered to Russia to make amendments to the legislation on the providing of psychiatric help.

Their "amendments". Their "development"

At the time when we wait for good changes, somebody is dreaming about quite different perspective. I mean the discussion in the State Duma (Russian Parliament) the programme entitled "Development of Psychiatric Care in the Russian Federation".
The psychiatric community instigated its adoption. We hear their usual songs: "The number of mentally ill is dramatically increased, they are dangerous people, we have not enough modern drugs..." This song in not national - it is international: haven't you hear it in your "progressive" country?
Its aim, in short, to increase the number of mental "hospitals" (existing 296 ones seems not enough for their appetites) and the sums of money for those who are "caring"...
And they planned to make a lot of changes in the law "About psychiatric help..." in the way that significantly decreases basic human rights, simplifying the procedure of involuntary incarceration, legalizing experiments on madhouses' prisoners, etc. This project was proposed by a group of Moscow psychiatrists, mainly from Serbsky's Institute (The Central Institute of Forensic Psychiatry).
We tried to counteract by sending e-letters to Duma's deputes with an appeal to stop the shrinks' plans. But this way of communication is almost totally under supervision... "State security" in Russia now means, in particular, barring such undesired messages, so they seemingly haven't reacted. So we had to use the ordinary post service. It's more expensive way, but we hope at least some of the letters reached their targets.
As a result, we saw a positive effect - Duma did not accept these shrinks' amendments and it did not accept this plan of "development of psychiatric care...". As it can be seen from the publications in Russian newspaper "Izvestiya", we were not alone who tried to affect the situation - more likely, the efforts of other Human Right Groups were more productive.
Thank God - Duma at least put off this program.

Principal difficulties

For last three years we have seen the psychiatry in a difficult situation. Colonel Budanov, who was accused of murdering a Chechen girl in spring, 2000, was sent off for a psychiatric examination a lot of times. Experts of Serbsky Institute "determined" if the colonel was temporarily insane at the time the crime was committed. The sentence of the court depends on the decision of the members of the "expert commission".
So-called Independent Psychiatric Association was also involved in this "competition of experts". Because this case has principal meaning to determine the state's attitude to similar criminal cases in Chechnya, the colonel has been hanging between "insane", "temporarily insane", "healthy" and "temporarily healthy" for so long period. These different "commissions of experts" reported their contradictory conclusions. This case had great social resonance - some people believed Budanov was a hero of this war. Finally, Budanov was imprisoned (not psychiatrically) for 10 years.

A "dangerous" meeting was prevented

But still no good changes visible. Today we found an advocate who is ready to defend a long-time psychiatric prisoner Igor Gubin, who has been sentenced in a local "medical" institution for about year (and this is not the first time). Shrinks were not too inventive in protecting Igor from this "undesired" assistance - they simply refused to get access an advocate to him.




A "gift"

On the contrary, they believed that "hospital's" building has too many windows to provide "therapeutic conditions". At the end of 2003 they closed one window with bricks. The toilet, that always was a place of meetings and discussions, a place from where one could gulp some fresh air from outside, became a windowsless box. You could see this window on the photo in previous ZWANG. Now it has the look showed on this picture.

A decorative defender

Traditionally, courts and public prosecutors in Russia are not effective in defending citizens oppressed by psychiatrists. State power is trying to imitate its efforts in this field by introducing the institute of "ombudsman" as an alternative state "defender". But "ye shall know them by their fruits..." (Matthew 7:16). Being created as an analogous of Western ones, by now they have demonstrated the similarity only in their titles. What I have said is based on our experience to appeal to this Altai "ombudsman" - this was not more effective than an appeal to the "doctors" to not inject you with their slops.

Not only human rights

Psychiatric ideology penetrated into various spheres of society. I believe that common conception of human rights is not sufficient if we want to live without psychiatry - one right of one people could collide with another right of another people, and this counteraction could be infinite. We need another conceptions what would help us to set the priorities of the rights in case of their collision. Today this regulative role frequently transferred to judges, experts or simply to brute force. The Holy Scripture contains the keys that usually are not in use by modern "human rights society". Why don't we use it?

Igor Girich,
"Help for Victims of Psychiatrists"
(I'd like to announce an English page on our web site:

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