Original text in Russian

Translation of an article from the Russian internet magazine "GAZETA"

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.

On Wednesday the ECHR ended the consideration of the case "Rakevich vs Russia". 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 (lowest) court, at the request of the psychiatrists, made a decision about the validity of Rakevich's detention for coercive psychiatric treatment. On November 11 Rakevich filed a complaint to the regional court requesting reconsidering the decision on her obligatory treatment. The court did not react. Then the application for a cancellation of the decision of the regional court was sent to the Sverdlovsk regional court, which on December 24, 1999 confirmed the decision of court of the lowest instance.

Rakevich's lawyer claimed that in delivering its verdict, the court absolutely had not taken into account the fact that Rakevich has a son, a schoolboy, and that she is a single parent.

Demeneva also insisted that the regional (lowest) 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.

The representative of the Russian Federation, Peter Laptev, speaking inthe ECHR, has offered his version of the events. He said that Rakevich's acquaintance met her in the street when she was in a "deranged condition" and the (female) acquaintance brought her back home and suggested she spend the night there. Later that night the guest ostensibly behaved extremely disturbing i.e. shouting and calling for her mother, who lives in Kazakhstan. She also had hallucinations. According to Laptev, this was the occasion for calling for the psychiatric "brigade".

The representative of the Russian government in the Court has recognized that the terms of consideration of Rakevich's complaint have been unfairly delayed but has noted that there was nothing in the actions of the court that could cause harm to the patient's health.

Considering all the circumstances of Rakevich's case, the Court in Strasbourg has decided that the decision of the Russian court contradicts Article 5, Paragraph 1 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. Changes should be brought in the law on the psychiatric help to make this part of the Russian legislation correspond to the European norms and principles of observance of human rights.

According to human rights defenders, Rakevich's case has arisen because of the lack of Russian legislation concerning the providing of psychiatric help. In Russia the law "About psychiatric help and guarantees of citizens' rights" has been in use since 1994. This law provides an opportunity for the providing of psychiatric help without the consent of the patient or his/her relatives and exclusively as a result of “medical indications”.

As the Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG) explained to "Gazeta.Ru", this law does not correspond to the European practice of the providing of psychiatric help. The head of the legal programs of the MHG, Natalia Kravchuk, has told "Gazeta.Ru" that "the Russian legislation in this area is faceless and indistinct. For this reason it is so hard for people to assert their own rights and it is necessary to reach the European Court on Human Rights".

See also: The medical Gulag