Larisa Arap (Лариса Ивановна Арап; born in 1958) is a Russian opposition activist who became a victim of illegal involuntary commitment in the psychiatric facilities of Murmansk and Apatity, soon after publishing a story about mistreatment of patients in the same hospital where she was committed in July, 2007. She was released after 46 days of confinement, on August 20, 2007.
Arap’s story, entitled “Durdom” (“Madhouse”), was prepared by journalist Ilona Novikova and published on June 8 2007
in the Murmansk
edition of the newspaper "Marsh Nesoglasnykh" (named after the "Dissenters' March
"). The newspaper is a part of the United Civil Front
, an opposition coalition led by former world chess champion Garry Kasparov
. Her story described crimes that allegedly took place at the Apatity
psychiatric facility, including the following:
- Murder of mental patients in order to harvest their organs for transplantation.
- Forcing children to kiss and massage the legs of staff members at the hospital; children who refused were punished by electroshock 'therapy'.
- Rape and torture of people in the psychiatric wards.
- Keeping sane but 'inconvenient' people in the hospital, such as a woman who complained about the rape of her daughter, or another woman who was imprisoned in the Apatity psikhushka to enable confiscation of her property.
On July 5
, Arap went to a clinic in the closed city
for the results of a medical examination
, which she had passed a month earlier to renew her driver’s license
. Doctor Olga Reshet asked her whether she was the author of the "Madhouse" article. After receiving a confirmation from Arap that she was indeed the author, Dr. Reshet told her to wait outside and called militsiya
(Russian police), who detained Arap until the arrival of a psychiatric ambulance.
Arap was injected with drugs that caused her tongue to swell, weakened her, and affected her vision and balance, according to her relatives. The detention was illegal, since a decision of a judge authorizing her detention and treatment was issued subsequently, thirteen days later.
Using her mobile phone, Arap called her husband, Dmitri Tereshin, who came from Murmansk to Severomorsk to help her, but she had already been moved to Murmansk. The personnel of the facility refused to give her husband information regarding the reason for the hospitalization. That same evening, their daughter Taisiya came to the facility with her husband. The duty medic, Yulya Kopyia, told them that publication of the article "Madhouse" proved Arap's insanity. Kopyia also said that Taisiya would be put into the psychiatric hospital, too, if she insisted on obtaining documents relating to Arap's hospitalization. Taisiya was later fired from her job in a local bank for "giving too many interviews about her mother."
Two days later, on July 7, 2007, Arap’s husband and daughter were allowed to visit her at the hospital. Arap claimed that she was severely beaten by the medical personnel and had bruises all over her body. She was tied to her bed and treated with unidentified 'sedatives'. To protest, Arap went on a five-day hunger strike, but she was eventually fed by force.
On July 18
, 2007, a court in Murmansk sanctioned hospitalization of Arap. The court ignored requests from Arap's husband and daughter to release her. Relatives insisted that she was not a danger to herself or society. Svetlana Lukicheva, Arap's advocate, submitted the complaint to the Regional Court. Arap's husband forwarded the complaint to the regional court and regional health care institutions.
On July 30, 2007, Vladimir Lukin
ordered the creation of an independent commission to investigate Arap's hospitalization. Yuri Savenko, president of the Independent Psychiatric Association, was in charge of forming the commission. According to Yuri Savenko, the forceful hospitalization of Arap was completely unwarranted, although he concedes that she does have mental problems (Arap herself also admits that she was briefly hospitalized for stress
in 2004). Savenko explained his assessment of the situation as follows: "We studied medical documents and materials related to the case, and spent an hour and a half with her. The result was that we came to the conclusion that we're dealing with a person who is in fact ill. There are no 'politics' behind this. However, the politicization of our entire life is such that these patients become the first victims of the situation.. He also said that "We're returning to this Soviet scenario when psychiatric institutions are used as punitive instruments
," and added that "I call this not even punitive psychiatry but police psychiatry, when the main aim is to protect the state rather than to treat sick people.
Arap was released from the hospital on August 20
, but she was forced to sign an agreement to continue medical treatment, and wait for the next decision of the court. According to her, she was severely beaten and suffered spine damage in the hospital. She was told by doctors during her release that "Everything in the court is under our control. Doctors, police, and prosecutors are the same team. You have nowhere to go. ... We are letting you go, but you must think about your family."
The decision of court about the involuntary hospitalization of Arap remains in force.
After her release, Arap, who had previously suffered only from mild depression, described her ordeal:
- CPJ.org - 'Writer forcibly hospitalized in Russia', an official statement by the Committee to Protect Journalists (August 14, 2007)
- E1.ru (Russian language) - Photo copied documents in the case of Larisa Arap
- EJ.ru (original publication, in Russian) - 'The triumph of punitive psychiatry in Murmansk', Alexandr Podrabinek, Ezhednevnyj Zhurnal (August 9, 2007)
- Activist tells about torture and captivity, By David R. Sands, October 16, 2007 , The Washington Times
- Rights Activist Tells of Detention In Russian Psychiatric Institutions By Nora Boustany, Washington Post, October 22, 2007
- * Russophobe.blogspot.com (English translation) - 'The Saga of Larisa Arap: The Triumph of Punitive Psychiatry in Murmansk' Aleksandr Podrabinek, Yezhednevniy Zhurnal (August 11, 2007)
- * Grani.ru (Russian) - 'Slowgoing crime', Valeria Novodvorskaya