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Since December 1980 Vladimir Khailo has been confined against his will to Dnepropetrovsk special psychiatric hospital. According to official Soviet procedures individuals may be confined to psychiatric hospitals against their will only if they are mentally ill and an "evident danger" to themselves or to others. There is no evidence to suggest that Vladimir Khatło posed such a threat at the time of his arrest or previously. The „evidence clearly shows that he is forcibly confined to a psychiatric hospital for his peaceful attempts to exercise his religious beliefs and his efforts to gain permission to leave the USSR. Amnesty International has therefore adopted him as a prisoner of conscience.
For further information on official Soviet procedures for confining people to psychiatric hospitals against their will, please see Section II of the attached AI briefing paper "Political Abuse of Psychiatry in the USSR" (EUR46/01/83 March 1983).
Vladimir Khailo (51) is a Baptist from Krasny Luch in the Voroshilovgrad region of the Ukrainian republic. He has a wife, Maria, and fifteen children.
In 1960 a split occurred within the official Baptist church following its adoption of the so-called "New Statutes". The "New Statutes" provided for a strongly-centralised church with the powers to appoint and dismiss local clergy, and called for the registration of all congregations with local secular authorities. Many Baptists left the official "All-Union Council of Evangelical Christians and Baptists" in protest against these statutes and in 1963 they formed their own unofficial "Council of Evangelical Christians and Baptists". Baptists of this group refuse to accept the state's stringent restrictions on religious practice. In particular they refuse to accept state control over appointments of clergy, the content of sermons, and its restrictions on giving religious education to children. They do not register their congregations with the state authorities and as such are officially considered to be illegal. Unofficial Soviet sources estimate that around 200,000 unregistered or "dissenting" Baptist congregations exist in the USSR today.
Vladimir Khailo and several other Baptists from Krasny Luch left the official church in 1961 and began to conduct religious services in the private homes of, fellow believers. In the following 15 years the family was repeatedly attacked in the local newspaper and in 1977 the Khailo children reportedly stopped going to school for fear of victimisation. In October 1977 the executive committee of the Krasny Luch soviet submitted a suit to the local court to deprive the Khailos of their rights as parents. The court hearing was completed in February 1978. After the Khailos had signed a statement promising that their children would attend school, the case against them was dropped.
A detailed account of this court hearing appears in the unofficial human rights journal A Chronicle of Current Events No. 48 (14 March 1978) and is attached to this case sheet.
In 1974 as a result of official harassment, the Khailo family applied for permission to emigrate from the Soviet Union. In October 1977 they repeated their application, also without success. In January 1978 the unofficial Helsinki monitoring group issued its Document 29 which chronicled the harassment of Vladimir Khailo and his family and asked that they be allowed to emigrate. At this time their case was also publicly supported by Academician Andrei Sakharov and the unofficial Christian Committee for the Defense of Believers' Rights in the USSR.
On 22 September 1980 Vladimir Khailo was forcibly confined to an ordinary psychiatric hospital in Voroshilovgrad region under the civil procedure. While he was there he was arrested on 14 November. The exact charge against him is not known. The investigator of his case ordered the result of a psychiatric examination. Vladimir Khailo was diagnosed "schizophrenic" and ruled to be not responsible for his actions. On 1 December 1980 a court ordered him to be forcibly confined for an indefinite period to a special psychiatric hospital.
Special psychiatric hospitals are the most severe type of psychiatric institution in the USSR and are officially designated for those who "represent a special danger to society". There is no evidence to suggest that Vladimir Khailo represented such a danger at the time of his arrest or previously. The evidence clearly shows that Vladimir Khailo has been confined to a psychiatric hospital because of his dissenting religious activity and not for genuine medical reasons.
Vladimir Khailo was sent to Dnepropetrovsk special psychiatric hospital on 16 December 1980. Accounts of his treatment there come from his wife and have been published in the unofficial "Bulletin" produced by "dissenting" Baptists in the USSR. According to her Vladimir Khailo was examined on arrival by a commission of three doctors, one of whom concluded: "I can't understand how they could send you here." At a later examination in December 1981 the commission reportedly promised to release Vladimir Khailo if he agreed to join a registered Baptist congregation. He refused.
The person in charge of viadimir Khailo's case is Dr. Aleksei Ivanovich Balabats. In the course of two and a half years' confinement Khailo is said to have been treated with halperidol, aminazin, stelazin and triftazin, as a result of which his health has been impaired. He is reported to be suffering from body swelling, sore joints, high blood pressure, faining fits, impaired vision and heart pains. At her first visit to him in January 1981 Maria Khailo said she did not recognise him. In 1982 the hospital authorities offered to grant him invalid status. Vladimir Khailo refused on the grounds that he had entered the hospital a healthy man.
For further information on Baptist prisoners of conscience in the USSR, please see the Al papers: "Imprisonment of Religious Believers in the USSR" (EUR 46/29/81) and "Imprisoned Leaders of the Unregistered Baptist Church in the USSR" (EUR 46/18/82).
In October 1978, during its "Prisoner of Conscience Week 1978" Amnesty International drew attention to a category of "forgotten prisoners" who had been left for many years in psychiatric hospitals, and where the obscurity of the cases and difficulty in obtaining up-to-date information about their conditions had resulted in both a lack of public awareness about their fate and probably greater exposure to ill-treatment, particularly through their. subjection to treatment with powerful drugs.
Over the past year Amnesty International has received information about several long-standing cases of compulsory psychiatric confinement for political reasons that it had not previously known about. Among these is the case of Yosif Rinkevich. The following is the only information at present available on him.
Background to Case
Yosif Rinkevich is a Russian Orthodox priest from the Byelorussian Republic. He is reported to have spoken out against the subordination of the Russian Orthodox Church to the state, and to have criticized the conmunist party. In 1973 he was arrested on ostensibly criminal charges of currency speculation. He was given a psychiatric examination and ordered to be confined to an ordinary psychiatric hospital in the Gomel region of Byelorussia. He is reportedly still confined in the hospital and being subjected to treatment with drugs.
According to Soviet law a person may be forcibly confined to a psychiatric hospital only if he is socially dangerous. There is to indication to suggest that at the time of his arrest Father Rinkevich was either "dangerous" to himself or to others, or that he was in need of compulsory psychiatric treatment. The Soviet practice of confining dissenters to psychiatric hospitals is described in Amnesty International's report "Prisoners of Conscience in the USSR: The ir Treatment and Conditions" (second edition, April 1980) and in the attached AI papers.
AI has under adoption numerous dissenters who have been imprisoned on criminal charges which have ostensibly no connection with their political or religious activities. Typical charges are "hooliganism", "parasitism", "engaging in prohibited trade" and even "attempted rape". AI believes that the real reason for the imprisonment of these individuals is their attempt to exercise their human rights in a non-violent manner. It has adopted them as prisoners of conscience.
Some of these prisoners are members of the Russian Orthodox Church. Tatyana Shchipkova, for example, is a 40-year-old philologist and member of an unofficial Russian Orthodox seminar group which met to discuss religious problems. She was arrested and convicted of "malicious hooliganism" - a charge which AI believes to be false. Several members of the Russian Orthodox clergy are also currently under adoption as prisoners of conscience, eg. Lev Regelson and Viktor Kapitanchuk. Both men have strongly criticized the state's control over the affairs of the Russian Orthodox Church.
All these factors strongly suggest that Father Rinkevich may be psychiatrically confined for seeking to exercise his right to freedom of conscience. However, for lack of detail concerning the circumstances of his arrest and subsequent confinement, AI is taking up his case for investigation.
Background to Adoption
Since Amnesty International took up this case for investigation it has received reports from several sources which consistently indicate that Yosif Rinkevich is confined to a psychiatric hospital for peacefully seeking to exercise his rights to freedom of conscience, and not for genuine medical reasons.
According to these reports Yosif Rinkevich served in the Soviet army for five years during the Second World War and was demobilised with a good record. Since Soviet men of 18 years old and over are eligible for military conscription, this suggests that Yosif Rinkevich was born around 1921 and is now in his early sixties. He is reported subsequently to have received official accrediation as an orthodox priest. Between 1945 and 1973 he is said to have been arrested on at least five separate occasions; each time after he had held unofficial religious services in premises not authorised for this purpose by the state. Amnesty International's sources do not indicate if he was subsequently sentenced to imprisonment, either adminstratively or by a court, or whether he was confined to a psychiatric hospital under the civil procedure. In order to avoid re-arrest Yosif Rinkevich is reported to have moved house frequently and in the months leading up to his last arrest in 1973 he was living in a forest. As a result of his frequent moves he is said to have accumulated tax arrears.
In 1973 he was arrested on a charge relating to tax violations (and not "currency speculation" as first reported). He was kept in custody awaiting trial in an investigation prison in Minsk, the capital of the Byelorussian republic, where he staged a hunger-strike in protest against his arrest. The investigator in charge of his case sent him for examination to Gomel psychiatric hospital, where doctors ruled him to be non-accountable for his actions. A court subsequently ordered that he be confined to an ordinary psychiatric hospital for an indefinite period.
Yosif Rinkevich was sent to a psychiatric hospital in Rechitsky district of Gomel region, where he still remains. Although he was ostensibly arrested for a tax offence, the medical commission which has examined him at six-monthly intervals to decide whether his confinement
should be prolonged, is reported to have urged him repeatedly to renounce his religious beliefs as a pre-condition for his discharge. In the early stages of his confinement Yosif Rinkevich is reported to have been administered doses of a barbiturate "Barbamil" and other drugs. It is not known what drugs, if any, he is being given at present.
There is no evidence to suggest that Yosif Rinkevich was an "evident danger" to himself or to others at the time of his arrest or previously, and that he was therefore eligible for forcible confinement to a psychiatric hospital under the official Soviet procedures. On the basis of the new information which has come to light on his case, Amnesty international believes that Yosif Rinkevich is forcibly confined to a psychiatric hospital for peacefully seeking to exercise his right to freedom of religious belief. He is therefore being adopted as a prisoner of conscience.
For further information on the Soviet practice of confining individuals of known non-conformist views to psychiatric hospitals against their will, please see the attached Amnesty international briefing paper: "Political Abuse of Psychiatry in the USSR" (EUR 46/01/83, February 1983).