Human rights activist demands to amend the Law “On Psychiatric Care”
The new Law of the Republic of Belarus № 349-3 “On Psychiatric Care” came into force on January 7, 2012. It may seem just another bill, but it is necessary to pay special attention to some seemingly insignificant articles.
Thus, according to Article 40 of the Act, “the rights of patients may be limited by a physician, head of the department or the head of a psychiatric hospital if their implementation poses an immediate danger to these patients and (or) other persons. The following rights can thus be limited:
- maintaining correspondence;
- sending and receiving telegrams, letters, money transfers, parcels and packages;
- using the phone.”
It would seem there is nothing wrong about the limitation, but, in fact, this article limits the patients’ communication with the outside world. A person is simply cut off from the rest of the people, including relatives and friends.
This problem has attracted the attention of human rights activist Liudmila Volkava, who petitioned the Constitutional Court with a request to check the compliance of Article 40 of the Law with Article 40 of the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus.
She believes that "such restrictions do not allow the patient to report on a crime, act of torture, cruel or inhuman treatment, as well as limit the right to defense in accordance with Article 62 of the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus. In addition, this rule is applied at one's sole discretion, which does not rule out the possibility of biased attitude against the person imposing restrictions on the patient.”
The human rights activist believes that the Law in this edition is partly a relic of the past and we can get back to punitive psychiatry, when human rights activists and people who disagree with the government could again be locked up in a psychiatric hospital and deprived of opportunities to communicate not only with the outside world, but also with close friends. In addition, a person cannot tell anyone what is happening to him or her, and what measures of forced psychiatry or even torture are used against him or her.
“Thus, many crimes that cannot be found in a civilized state, will not only go unpunished, but appear to be almost legal," says Liudmila Volkava.