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A friend on Yury Kavaliou's coercive mental treatment: “This is nothing less than punitive psychiatry”

2022 2022-11-11T19:17:39+0300 2022-11-11T19:18:12+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
Yury Kavaliou has been persecuted for supporting the opposition candidate in the election campaign | Courtesy of Kavaliou's family

Political prisoner Yury Kavaliou has been in a psychiatric hospital for coercive mental treatment ordered by the court since August 2022. In an interview with RFE/RL's Belarus Service, his friend told about the current political prisoner conditions.

In mid-June 2022, it became known that the administration of the penal colony initiated a criminal case against the inmate Yury Kavaliou for ‘disobedience’ under Part 1 of Article 411 of the Criminal Code. This article provides for up to 12 more months in jail. However, Kavaliou was assigned coercive mental treatment in a hospital instead.

In August, the political prisoner was placed in the Republican Scientific and Practical Center for Mental Health for six months.

“It is extremely difficult for him there. He says it was much easier in the penitentiary, even in the punishment cell. The hospital reported coronavirus cases. Yuri could not call for three weeks. Visits were reduced from 20 to 5 minutes, and you are separated by a glass wall. On top of all that, they put him on what seemed to me to be terrible medication. I read about it and grabbed my head. I worry about his condition after those drugs.

He was locked up in a psychiatric hospital for six months. After six months, the board will decide whether Yuri has recovered or not. [...] The period of compulsory treatment can be extended for as long as they want. This is nothing less than punitive psychiatry,” Kavaliou’s friend told RFE/RL.

Yury Kavaliou lives in Čačersk. He campaigned for Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya in the 2020 presidential election campaign. The police detained him a few days before the election, he was sentenced to 15 days in jail. Later he was put behind bars several more times for ‘unauthorized pickets’ like displaying a white-red-white flag on the house or wearing a ‘provocative’ T-shirt.

On July 23, 2021, Kavaliou was arrested for calling Lukashenka “a moron” at a routine psychiatrist appointment to obtain a driver’s license. The doctor reported him to the police. As a result, the man was charged with ‘insulting the president’ under Article 368 of the Criminal Code.

On July 22, 2021, the Buda-Kašalioŭ District Court sentenced Kavaliou to 12 months in jail in a closed-door trial. The defendant pleaded not guilty. Kavaliou served his term as a political prisoner in Vaŭkavysk penal colony No. 11. It is known that the colony administration repeatedly placed him in a disciplinary cell and cell-type facilities. On June 28, 2022, three days before the political prisoner's release from the penal colony, the Vaŭkavysk District Court convicted him under Article 411 of the Criminal Code of ‘malicious disobedience to the demands of the administration of the penitentiary’ and assigned coercive mental treatment.