Person of the Week: Aleksandr Gabyshev confined indefinitely to a psychiatric hospital.

Wee-ending 24 September 2021


On 23 September 2021 a court decision came into force indefinitely confining Siberian shaman, Aleksandr Gabyshev, to a psychiatric ward for ‘intensive treatment’ on the grounds that he vowed in 2019 ‘to purge’ President Vladimir Putin from the Kremlin. Aleksandr Gabyshev’s appeal against a decision by Yakutsk City Court of 26 July 2021 was unsuccessful. The court declared Aleksandr Gabyshev ‘insane’ and lacking legal capacity, finding him guilty of ‘using violence against police officers’ and ‘calling for extremism.’

Natalia Zviagina, Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director, said: ‘Aleksandr Gabyshev has become a symbol of grassroots resistance to the increasingly repressive government of Vladimir Putin, so it is not surprising that the authorities went to such extreme lengths to silence him and smear his name. Once again, the authorities are using ‘psychiatric care’ as a punishment – a method tried and tested during Soviet times. It is genuinely shocking to see how easily the life of someone who dares to peacefully express their views and criticize the authorities is destroyed by the powerful and repressive tools of the state. Compulsory psychiatric treatment is a form of torture and other ill-treatment. The authorities must refrain from any involuntary therapy and release Aleksandr Gabyshev immediately and unconditionally, as he has been sentenced to indefinite compulsory psychiatric treatment solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression. The use of punitive psychiatry as a method to silence dissent must stop now.’

Source: ‘Siberian shaman who marched against Putin is indefinitely confined to a psychiatric hospital,’ Amnesty International, 23 September 2021

In an Urgent Action issued on 16 September 2021, Amnesty International urged its supporters to write to the prosecutor of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), Maksim Nikolaevich Popov, urging him to take action to stop the harassment of Aleksandr Gabyshev, 52 years-old resident of Yakutsk, ‘including his intended confinement in a psychiatric institution under the decision by Yakutsk City Court taken on 26 July 2021.’ Gabyshev’s appeal against his confinement will be heard on 23 September. The text in part read:

‘That is the second instance of Aleksandr Gabyshev facing punitive psychiatry, after he was arbitrarily placed in a psychiatric institution between 12 May and 22 July 2020 and released in response to a wide public outcry. If he loses his appeal on 23 September, he risks being confined there indefinitely and subjected to forcible treatment. According to international law and standards, deprivation of liberty on grounds of mental illness is unjustified if not strictly necessary to protect the safety of the person or of others. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, to which Russia is a State party, forbids the deprivation of liberty based on the existence of any disability, including mental or intellectual. Furthermore, the Special Rapporteur on torture has said that medical treatment administered in the absence of free and informed consent may amount to torture or other illtreatment. Aleksandr Gabyshev is a shaman who engaged in peaceful activism in 2018, as a public critic of President Vladimir Putin. In the years that followed, he was subjected to repeated arbitrary arrests by police, humiliating examinations and unfounded psychiatric confinement. On 27 January 2021, his home was raided by dozens of police officers, when he was arrested and accused of using violence.’

Source: ‘Shaman challenges indefinite hospitalization: Aleksandr Gabyshev,’ Amnesty International, 16 September 2021

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