Urgent Action: Shaman in Psychiatric Detention for Criticizing Putin (Russian Federation: UA 94.20)

June 8, 2020

On 2 June, the Yakutsk City Court approved the indefinite forcible psychiatric hospitalization of Aleksandr Gabyshev, a shaman who in 2019 announced he would march on foot from Yakutsk, in east Siberia, to Moscow “to purge” President Vladimir Putin from the Kremlin. Aleksandr Gabyshev is being targeted for his open criticism of the authorities and should not be arbitrarily deprived from his freedom or administered any medical treatment without his free and informed consent.



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Oleg Dmitrievich Narkovsky
Prosecutor of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia)
Due to postal restrictions caused by COVID-19, please only send physical mail to the Embassy
Email: [email protected] [email protected]
Fax: +7 (4112) 36-4594; +7 (4112) 36-26-09
Ambassador Anatoly Antonov
Embassy of the Russian Federation
2650 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Washington DC 20007
Phone: 202 298 5700 I Fax: 202 298 5735
Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @RusEmbUSA
Facebook: @RusEmbUSA
Instagram: @RusEmbUSA
Salutation: Dear Ambassador

Dear Prosecutor,

I am writing to express my deep concern regarding the forcible psychiatric hospitalization of Aleksandr Gabyshev, a Siberian shaman who started a walking journey in 2019 from Yakutsk to Moscow where he promised to “purge” Russian President Vladimir Putin from Kremlin. His journey was unlawfully halted by police in September 2019 and he was forced to return to Yakutsk. On 12 May 2020, riot police, accompanied by several medics, forcibly entered his home and took him to the Yakut Republican Psychoneurological Dispensary purportedly because he refused to be tested for COVID-19. According to his lawyer, Aleksandr Gabyshev was forced to sign a consent form to be hospitalized for observation for two weeks. Aleksandr Gabyshev tested negative for COVID-19 and on 29 May, he requested to be released. Instead, a medical commission was promptly formed which concluded that he posed a “danger to himself and to others”. The Director of the Dispensary sought approval from the Yakutsky City Court to extend Aleksandr Gabyshev’s confinement and argued that his patient “suffers from over-valuing of his personality” and that he had expressed ideas intended “to harm the government.” On 2 June, the court approved the forcible hospitalization.

According to international law and standards, deprivation of liberty on grounds of mental illness is unjustified if not strictly necessary to protect the safety of the person or of others. In the case of Aleksandr Gabyshev, his political views, in conjunction with his religious beliefs, were held against him as evidence of his purported mental disability. His forcible hospitalization has been approved despite there being no genuine evidence that he poses any danger to anyone. Moreover, his right to a fair trial was violated when his defense called several witnesses, but they were detained by the police for supposedly violating the restrictive measures introduced to fight COVID-19.

I urge you to take all necessary steps to immediately end Aleksandr Gabyshev’s forcible hospitalization and his ongoing persecution for his political beliefs.

Yours sincerely,