Russia: Siberian shaman who marched against Putin must be immediately released from psychiatric hospital

Responding to today’s court decision according to which Aleksandr Gabyshev, a Siberian shaman who vowed last year “to purge” President Vladimir Putin from the Kremlin, will remain confined to a psychiatric hospital, Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, said:

“Following weeks of intensive police surveillance, Aleksandr Gabyshev was forcibly taken from his home where he was self-isolating, to a psychiatric hospital by a riot squad. When he demanded to be freed, he was pronounced to be ‘a danger to himself and others’, and now the court has sanctioned his confinement in the hospital based on a ‘medical’ opinion the conclusions of which are based on his political views.

“Aleksandr Gabyshev has been made an enemy of the state solely for voicing his dislike of Putin and his dramatic journey by foot from his home in Siberia to Moscow, halted by police after he spoke of ‘purging’ the president from office using his shamanic powers.

“By co-opting first the police and now the psychiatric system to do their bidding, the Russian authorities have revealed the astonishing lengths they will go to repress critics. This is wholly unacceptable, and Aleksandr Gabyshev must be immediately and unconditionally released.”

By co-opting first the police and now the psychiatric system to do their bidding, the Russian authorities have revealed the astonishing lengths they will go to repress critics
Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia

Background

In 2019, Aleksandr Gabyshev walked hundreds of kilometres before he was stopped by police, briefly placed in a psychiatric hospital. He was later released and apparently placed under police surveillance. On 12 May 2020, riot police entered his home where he was self-isolating and took him to a psychiatric hospital purportedly because he refused to be tested for COVID-19.

On 29 May, after he had petitioned the hospital to end his hospitalization and to be released, a medical commission was promptly called and concluded that Aleksandr Gabyshev poses a “danger to himself and others”. The hospital director sought approval from Yakutsky City Court to extend Aleksandr Gabyshev’s confinement and argued that his patient “suffers from over-valuing of his personality” because he had expressed ideas intended “to harm the government.” On 2 June, the court approved forcible hospitalisation of Aleksandr Gabyshev and he may now be confined in the psychiatric hospital indefinitely.

International human rights standards have clearly established that regimes of deprivation of liberty based on the perceived danger of persons to themselves or to others are inherently arbitrary and should be eliminated.