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Vladimir Danchev is forcibly confined to a psychiatric hospital for an Indefinite period after he made remarks critical of Soviet foreign policy in broadcasts given by "Radio Moscow".
According to official Soviet procedures for compulsory confinement, Individuals may be put in psychiatric hospitals against their will only if they are shown to be mentally 111 and an "evident danger" to themselves or to others. There is no evidence to suggest that Vladimir Danchev was physically dangerous at the time of his confinement or previously* The evidence in this case clearly shows that Vladimir Danchev is forcibly confined for seeking to exercise his right to freedom of expression in j non-violent manner, rather than for authentic medical reasons. Amnesty International is therefore adopting^him as a prisoner of conscience.
For further information on the Soviet practice of confining people of known non-conformist views to psychiatric hospitals against their will, please see the attached Amnesty international paper "Political Abuse of Psychiatry in the USSR" (EUR 46/01/83, February 1983).
Vladimir Danchev (35) was formerly employed as a newsreader with the Soviet English-language broadcasting service, "Radio Moscow". Over a period of months in 1983, he is reported to have made repeated alterations to officially-prepared texts and to have broadcast comments sharply critical of Soviet foreign policy. In May the British Broadcasting Corporation publicised transcripts of Danchev's statements: on 18th, he announced that the leaders of the Afghan tribes "had called for a struggle against the Soviet occupiers"; on 20th, he reported that "the Soviet Union has again demonst rated that it is not prepared to make constructive decisions about the limitation of nuclear weapons in Europe"; and on the 23rd he made three announcements criticising the Soviet presence in Afghanistan. Following extensive pubIicity given to his remarks abroad, Vladimir Danchev was dismissed from his post, and transferred to his home town of Tashkent in Uzbekistan.
Little detail is available on his case from this point. By the end of June 1983, however, sources report that he had been confined against his will to an ordinary psychiatric hospital in the city and that during the investigation of his case he had refused to repudiate the remarks he had broadcast. This information indicates that he is confined under the criminal procedure, - ie by the decision of a court, based on a psychiatric report and doctors' recommendations made during the investigation of the case. It is not yet known precisely what criminal charge was brought against Vladimir Danchev. Like hundreds of other Soviet citirens,who have also criticised official government policies and received publicity abroad, however, it appears highly probable that Vladimir Danchev was charged with conducting "anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda".
During the investigation of his case, Vladimir Danchev reportedly said that he had been altering official scripts since February 1983 in protest against the Soviet policy towards Afghanistan. in June 1983 spokesmen for "Radio Moscow" told foreign journalists that Danchev had expressed criticisms of the USSR because he was dissatisfied with his housing and his wife had left him.
Mr. Yatron. Thank you, Professor Fireside, for your testimony and for your recommendations.
Dr. Karlavage, the strength of the human rights movement depends on the active involvement of citizens like yourself who are willing to deeply involve yourselves in dealing with abuses on a case-by-case basis.
Based on your contacts and experience, does it appear that the Soviet labor leaders are a target of psychiatric treatment?
Dr. Karlavage. There is no question. There are, of course, two forms of labor unions in the Soviet Union at this time, the official trade unions, which as you know, are an arm of the Communist Party, and then there are individuals who recognize that there are major problems in the Soviet Union in reference to labor practices.
Certainly, the Communist Party does not have the leadership of the working man in the Soviet Union. There are many workers who recognize that their interests are not being led by the Communist Party in the Soviet Union. When they bring up their complaints in reference to wages, in reference to conditions, particularly in the coal mining industry, there is really great response from the head of enterprise, of the mine, or the trade union.
Certainly, the Soviet coal mines that I visited were, indeed, quite good, though certainly not as good as American coal mines. Indeed, there are many coal mines in the Soviet Union that are not safe, that indeed have problems in reference to gas problems, cave-ins. When individual workers pursue their problems with their trade union leaders, they are basically sold down the river because the most important thing as far as the Soviet Union is concerned is production of coal, and not necessarily the health and welfare of Soviet workers.
Mr. Yatron. Did Alexei Nikitin's sister mention when she had last heard from her brother as to what kind of treatment he is presently receiving?
Dr. Karlavage. Through the contact and translator that I utilized, I do not speak Russian but my translator did, she did say that Nikitin's health was poor. There was no problem in reference to his mental health per se. She said that he was having difficulty with his vision.
I think that one of the most extreme situation is that here is an individual who was born and raised in the Ukraine, who when he was in supposedly poor health as far as the Soviet Government is concerned, and he had to be transported thousands upon thousands of miles away from his family. This man is a single individual who lived with his sister in the town of Donetsk. The sister has great difficulty, and has never seen him in Alma Ata. The only way she can communicate with him is through letters, which is not frequent.
Here again is a way in which they tend to break individuals, it is transporting them far away from their home. The same thing with Dr. Koryagin. He is a prisoner in Christopol Prison, which is hundreds of miles from his home, which again, not having contact with his family and children, he has essentially given up on his own particular plight in order to, in a humanitarian way, give as good a life as possible to his wife and his children, he has urged them to leave him and to emigrate to the United States.
Mr. Yatron. Would you recommend individual efforts by others such as yourself on behalf of the victims of psychiatric abuse in the Soviet Union?
Dr. Karlavage. I think certainly any citizen of the world. There is clearly nothing wrong under Soviet law, or under international law, for an individual, who is supposedly either in jail or in a hospital, to be given means of comfort, be it vitamin pills. He supposedly is being taken care of in a special psychiatric hospital, yet he is not even given vitamin pills to maintain his poor health.
These legal methods in which citizens who are concerned, no matter what the ideology, should certainly be encouraged to do this as long as they do not break Soviet law and they act in a proper manner.
Mr. Yatron. Thank you, Dr. Karlavage.
Professor Fireside, does the misuse of drugs constitute torture as commonly understood by Amnesty?
Mr. Fireside. Certainly, Amnesty International material has mentioned that drugs were meted out to people who complained, to people whose families reported their imprisonment on unjust grounds to organizations such as Amnesty. So the punitive use of drugs, the mere giving of drugs to people who may have been sane, I think is a misuse.
In addition to the misuse of drugs, Amnesty mentions the beatings in special psychiatric hospital by ordinary criminals who are routinely allowed to work off their probation terms, and they take very sadistic care of the patients that are under their charge. There are also some other refinements that seem to be clearly sadistic, such as wet rags of canvas that shrink and cause excrutiating pain, that are administered as punishment to people who persist in their so-called anti-Soviet ideas.
Mr. Yatron. What has been the Soviet response to Amnesty International's intercessions on behalf of Soviet psychiatric abuse victims?
Mr. Fireside. It is hard for me to tell you, because I am speaking as a member of one of the Amnesty groups and as a coordinator for a U.S. group working specifically on the issue of the psychiatric abuse. I don't know whether the London office has ever had any response, but it would greatly surprise me. The general response of the Soviet authorities to Western allegations of abuse has been to stonewall it, to make claims that they have never made a mistake, that all this is part of an anti-Soviet slanderous conspiracy.
I think Amnesty's effect is in keeping up the morale of prisoners by showing them that the outside world has learned of their plight. As Dr. Zoubok pointed out, news like your committee's activities, and the work of Amnesty is relayed by Voice of America and Radio Free Europe, and it gives renewed courage to people who simply want to have the freedoms of speech, assembly and writing that are guaranteed to them under Soviet law.
Amnesty, as such, is not an illegal organization in the U.S.S.R. There is a small group in Moscow that concerns itself with cases outside of the Soviet Union. What groups like ours in Ithaca, New York, do is to send parcels, which are perfectly legal, and to send letters of support to the families, and then letters of intercession to the Soviet authorities asking them to look into what seems to be violations of the Soviet's own procedures.
Mr. Yatron. Thank you very much, Professor Fireside. I want to thank you and Dr. Karlavage for being here today to give us the benefit of your views.
The Subcommittee on Human Rights and International Organizations and the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe stands adjourned subject to call of the Chair. Thank you very much for being here.
[Whereupon, at 4:40 p.m., the subcommittee and the commission adjourned, subject to the call of the Chair.]
Article By Walter Reich Entitled "grigorenko Gets A Second Opinion," Published In The New York Times Magazine, May 13, 1979
Twice declared mentally ill twice committed
dissidents sought another psychiatric reading
on a visit to the United States. His re-examination posed
unique medical and ethical dilemmas.
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