28 June 2012
Source: OpenInform News Agency
Blogger and human rights activist Maksim Efimov ©
Photo provided to OpenInform by Maksim Efimov
On 28 June the criminal division of the Supreme Court of Karelia reviewed the cassation appeal by lawyers acting for Maksim Efimov, head of the Karelia branch of the Youth Human Rights Group, against the ruling of the Petrozavodsk city court that Efimov, author of a blog entitled ‘Karelia is tired of priests’, be placed in a psychiatric hospital for a psychiatric examination.
The decision of the court of first instance was quashed. The case has been sent back for a new consideration. At the same time the chair of the court explained that the decision by the Petrozavodsk city court was not in accordance with the law, and was without grounds. This was reported from the courtroom by Ramil Akhmetgaliev, a lawyer acting for Maksim Efimov from the Agora Human Rights Association.
In the cassation appeal lawyer Ramil Akhmetgaliev pointed out that a thorough psychological and psychiatric assessment is possible exclusively in relation to strictly defined questions, namely 1) responsibility for one’s actions; 2) psychological disorders that do not limit responsibility, and 3) the determination of the presence or absence of paedophilia. The outpatient examination of Efimov concluded that it was necessary to place him in a psychiatric hospital on the grounds of ‘the degree of personality deviations.’ At the same time the experts themselves assert that Efimov did not suffer from any psychological pathologies.
On 28 June Ramil Akhmetgaliev stated in court that the identification of personality characteristics cannot be grounds for conducting a psychiatric assessment, a correspondent for the Open News Agency reports.
With the help of specialists, Olga Rybalova and Ramil Akhmetgaliev, the lawyers acting for Efimov, explained to the court that the conclusions of the assessment lacked any basis.
Professor Vladimir Mendelevich, a highly-qualified psychiatrist with 32 years’ experience and a clinical psychologist for 14 years, who heads the department of medicine and general psychology of Kazan State Medical University, said: “ It is not possible to recognize the assessment as well-argued, well-grounded and convincing, either in terms of the difference between the conclusions and the arguments employed by the experts, or whether in terms of the recommendation to conduct a renewed psychiatric examination of Efimov as an in-patient.” Similar conclusions were reached by retired Colonel Vladimir Rubashny, ex-head of the psychological service of the Tatarstan Penitentiary Service and a psychologist with 18 years’ experience, and Dr Viktor Gursky, a psychiatrist, narcotics expert and psychotherapist at Nizhny Novgorod Clinical Psychiatric Hospital No. 11 with 28 years’ experience (and 19 years’ experience as a psychotherapist).
Professor Mendelevich points in particular to the conclusions of the Karelian experts: “Efimov had never been examined by psychiatrists in his life, he had never been under observation and had not been an outpatient at a psychiatric clinic. Psychiatrists had never diagnosed him as having a psychiatric illness or disorder.”
“On the one hand experts had not found any psychiatric disorders, and on the other they had not found any personality disorders that went beyond individual psychological and personality traits. In other words on the basis of the examination he should have been found to be psychiatrically healthy, and this should have been written in the conclusion,” Professor Mendelevich stressed in his written comments on the case.
“The description of his individual psychological specificalities do not have a strictly scientific nature,” Professor Mendelevich noted with surprise. “The paradox is that, without having described a single symptom of a psychological pathology, the experts did not conclude (as they should have done) that these were absent, and thereby recognized Efimov as psychologically healthy.”
Vladimir Mendelevich stressed that “on the basis of the conclusions by the expert commission, it is not possible to say that the recommendation to place Efimov in a psychiatric hospital for psychiatric examination has any foundation.”
So far as the consequences of these conclusions for the blogger and human rights activist Maksim Efimov are concerned, all three experts also agreed that they could have an extremely negative impact.
On 12 May Petrozavod city court had granted the request of the investigators to place Maksim Efimov in a psychiatric hospital. The basis for this decision was a psychiatric assessment conducted at the request of the investigation which concluded: “To identify the actual state and degree of personality deviations of Efimov it is necessary to conduct a forensic psychological and psychiatric assessment as an in-patient at a psychiatric clinic, together with gathering additional evidence in terms of character references from his employers and teachers (including at graduate school), and interrogation of relatives and friends about the specific features of his character and behaviour.”
Maksim Efimov has been charged with “inciting enmity or hatred, and also abasing the dignity of a group of persons belonging to a religion” (Article 282, Section 1, Criminal Code of the Russian Federation) for publishing in his blog a piece entitled ‘Karelia is tired of priests’.