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Russia21 August 2007

Activist freed after being held against her will in psychiatric hospital for six weeks

Reporters Without Borders voiced relief today on learning that Larissa Arap, a member of the opposition United Civic Front, has been released from the Apatit psychiatric hospital near Murmansk where she had been held against her will since 6 July.

“Our thoughts go out to Arap and to her friends and family,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Psychiatric hospitalisation is regulated by laws that must be respected if the rule of law is to be maintained,” the press freedom organisation said. “It was illegal to hold Arap in a psychiatric hospital because she did not pose a danger to herself or her family. This case is sadly reminiscent of an era when punitive psychiatry was common.”

Elena Vasilyeva, the United Civic Front’s representative in Murmansk said a doctor told her Arap was to be discharged when she made her daily visit to the hospital yesterday. Her colleagues link her forced hospitalisation to the interview she gave for an article entitled “Madhouse” in the 8 June issue of the newspaper March Nesoglasnikh (March of the Dissenters), in which she criticised the treatment of children in psychiatric hospitals.

At the request of Russian human-rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin, an independent assessment of Arap’s condition was carried out. It confirmed the diagnosis that she required treatment, but said she could receive this at home and there were no grounds for keeping her in hospital.

The president of the Independent Psychiatric Association, Yury Savenko, said he feared punitive hospitalisation could become more common following the adoption of the law on extremism.


Journalist and opposition activist said to have been forcibly interned in psychiatric hospital

Reporters Without Borders voiced alarm today on learning that Russian journalist and opposition activist Larissa Arap was interned in a psychiatric hospital earlier this month in unclear circumstances.

“It would be outrageous and utterly unacceptable if this journalist has been forcibly interned because of her activism or her articles,” the press freedom organisation said. “The authorities must quickly clarify the circumstances of her internment, which raises fears of a return to the dark hours of the Soviet regime when internment in psychiatric hospitals was used to silence dissidents.”

According to Elena Vassiliyeva, the head of the Murmansk branch of former world chess champion Garry Kasparov’s United Civil Front, Arap, 48, was arrested on 6 July in a clinic in Murmansk where she had gone for a medical examination to obtain a driver’s licence.

Arap wrote an article about the treatment of children in psychiatric hospitals in the Murmansk region that appeared in the 8 June issued of the newspaper published by Kasparov’s “March of the Dissenters” movement. Based on interviews with parents, it argued that certain psychiatric practices verged on torture. It criticised the use of electroshock in particular.

Possibly because of the article, it appears that when she went to the clinic for the medical examination, she was recognised by a doctor who called the police. Following her arrest, she was transferred to a psychiatric hospital 150 km outside Murmansk.

A spokesman for the regional governor said it was impossible that someone could be hospitalised nowadays in Russia for political reasons or because of their professional activities. “I completely rule out the idea that it is a case of political repression,” he said. “There is no persecution of opponents. Everyone can express their point of view. It is absurd.”

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