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The re-KGB-isation of Russia

Putin’s Russia continues its heroic great march backwards in time. The ‘weaponization of psychiatry‘ is something that never went out of style in China, where people can be described as ‘politically deranged’. The use of psychiatric detention against political enemies has a long history in the not-so-post Communist world and so I can hardly say I am surprised to see this being done again in Russia.

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10 comments to The re-KGB-isation of Russia

  • James

    It’s a fairly trivial subject, Perry, when you consider that it’s also happening a little closer to home.


  • James, how does that make it trivial?!

  • Hardly trivial, James. I have nothing against sectioning per se become some people really do go mad (I was involved in a sectioning hearing once for a family member with whom I was very close, not a pleasant experience), it is the political use of psychiatry that is horrific.

  • James

    Trivial in the sense that the framework for it is here and not just ‘over there’.

    The mechanism for imprisoning somebody indefinitely without trial for their ‘ideas’ and because they inconvenience a British politician doesn’t appeal to me.

    It just gives legitimacy of the ‘weaponisation of psychiatry’, as you put it, to the Russian state.

  • Nick M

    Perry is absolutely right. A relative (by marriage) of mine recently had to be sectioned. It was because Alzheimer’s had robbed her of the capacity to look after herself and she was refusing to open the door to anybody. There was nothing political in this – she was completely mentally incapable.

    I would add, mind, that the Western psychiatry business is somewhat complicit in earlier Soviet abuses because they refused for a very long time to believe doctors could ever do such a thing.

    I suppose I’m vaguely complicit in an odd way because I tend to believe that people I have extremely strong ideological differences are nucking futz. That’s people who believe in imposing the most bonker’s form of Shariah law or consider Hitler a great man or think that North Korea is a socialist paradise. Having said that I don’t believe such grotbags ought to be sectioned because it’s enormously more fun to just take the piss out of them.

  • Trivial in the sense that the framework for it is here and not just ‘over there’.

    So I take it that what happens over there is trivial given that they are just Russians and not British, is that what you are suggesting?

    However I do agree that people should not be sectioned for wanting to blow themselves up in London, regardless of the fact it does indeed suggest extreme mental illness. Such folks should be tried and if convicted either locked up for life or sent straight to Allah at just under 1000 metres per second. No need to involve the psychiatric profession at all.

  • guy herbert

    Nick M,

    The difference between old-style ‘sectioning’ under the older Mental Health Acts and indefinite detention or compulsory treatment of persons with “mental disorders” under the Mental Health Act 2007, which is why the latter was repeatedly repulsed by the House of Lords until the end of this last session. It is so bad it was held up for almost 8 years and the Government never pushed it to a full confrontation.

    To quote the (far from radical libertarian) BMA:

    The definition of mental disorder and the conditions that must be met are central to the operation of the new Bill because they identify the group of individuals who can be subject to its powers. The Government intends to introduce a single definition of mental disorder, abolishing the categories listed in the 1983 Mental Health Act and removing most of the exclusions. The Government’s cites historical anachronism as the justification for removing the exceptions in relation to promiscuity or sexual deviancy. While this feels broadly right, the Government has also stated that the exclusion in relation to sexual deviance has prevented the detention of people with sexually deviant behaviours who should fall under the Act. The Government has indicated that it aims to ensure that paedophiles can be treated under the legislation.

    The BMA welcomes the fact that the Lords voted to rule out the use of substance misuse, sexuality, criminality and cultural or religious beliefs as grounds for diagnosing ‘mental disorder’. However, the BMA believes that the broad criteria for mental disorders and the lack of appropriate exclusions would extend compulsory powers to individuals for whom no therapeutic benefit can be provided.

    In fact the Act as finally passed is really hard to read, throughout concerned with a very stretchy definition of “mental disorder” which includes the notoriously stretchy category of personality disorders. And the exclusions voted by the Lord’s mostly didn’t make it through. Specifically in the Act, release is conditioned by ‘victims rights’ under the Domestic Violence Crime and Victims Act 2004, so criminality is retained as part of the operative conception.

    What did (a neat trick to avoid substantive restrictions on official power, Cf the new police powers being canvassed through changes in the Codes of Practice under PACE Act 1984) is the requirement for there to be a Code of Principles prepared by the government, which shall have regard to “repect for diversity generally including, in particular, diversity of religion, culture and sexual orientation (within the meaning of the Equality Act 2006)” The Draft Illustrative Code’ now being offered for consultation is here [pdf]. You can see how long this battle, now lost, has been going on from the amendments on the face of the draft showing the dates in 1999 struck out. In all essentials the Government now has the powers it set out to get in 1999.

    Fascinatingly, though the entire landscape is changed, this is all purportedly an amendment to the 1983 Act, which is one reason it is really hard to read. It didn’t all just happen bitterly contested in the past few years. “Nothing to see here; move on please.”

  • Jacob

    Under what circumstances (if any) would ‘sectioning’ (forced internment in a mental hospital) be justified ?

    If some sectioning is justified, you need some definition of when it would be justified. How do you define this? Is it possible to define with precission psychiatric states ?
    A person who committed a crime should be either jailed or internned. But what about one who handn’t yet commited a crime (but some pshychiatrists say he is liable to commit one)? Not easy questions, I think.

  • jb

    I have been told several times over the last few years by friends working for press, children’s and women’s organizations in Russia of this kind of thing going on. I’ve have also seen numerous officers and officials on TV lamenting the fact that they don’t have the power to forceably treat drug users and people who object to being conscripted. It is bound to trickle up to a national level at some point.

    It is nothing to do with “Putin’s Russia” though, it is the Russians’ Russia.

  • Paul Marks

    No it is “Putin’s Russia” – Boris Yeltsin (for all his Communist Party past) was not like this.

    Russia had many opposition newspapers and radio and T.V. stations. And Governors were elected (not appointed).

    Trial by jury meant something Yeltisin, and he was even hositle to conscription.

    There is a Russian saying “first they smash your face in, and then they say you were always ugly”.

    People who excuse Putin by saying “well the Russians are like that” are falling into this trap.