Commentary, CCE 26

<<No 26 : 5 July 1972>>

26.5 Political Prisoners in Psychiatric Hospitals

Extended commentary in the October 1972 English edition of CCE 26

“This subject continues to provoke intense controversy. When on 11 July 1972 the French Minister of Interior, R. Marcell in. referred in a speech to the Soviet practice of imprisoning dissenters in mental hospitals, the Soviet ambassador P. Abrasimov made an official protest to the French government- see an AP dispatch from Paris of 14 July and L’Aurore. Paris, 16 July. On 8 May, moreover, Pravda accused Israel of exactly the same practice.

“Meanwhile the American Psychiatric Association (1700. 18th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C., 20009), had responded to I.F. Stone’s articles (see note 67 to CCE 23) by setting up a powerful ad hoc committee, consisting of Drs. R.W. Waggoner (chairman), Paul Chodoff, and John Visher and Judge D.L. Bazelon, to examine the “Bukovsky papers” on which they were based. In its report this committee was “impressed by the scope and quality of the material reviewed”. “Assuming the reliability of the documents’’ the committee was “of the opinion that they support the allegations”. Following the committee’s recommendation, therefore, the APA asked the World Psychiatric Association in June, first, to circulate the APA’s earlier statement, which opposed “the misuse of psychiatric facilities for the detention of persons solely on the basis of their political dissent, no matter where it occurs,’’ to all WPA member associations. Secondly it recommended to the WPA “that an appropriate international organization be urged to establish a properly staffed agency to formulate internationally acceptable standards and guidelines as far as is possible, to receive complaints from any individual or appropriate national body alleging the enforced use of psychiatric facilities for political purposes, and to make investigations of such complaints”, the WPA executive will consider these recommendations in November 1972.

“The APA committee, however, at Judge Bazelon’s urging, has decided to transfer its attention from Soviet to American abuses of psychiatry. See an account of all these developments in the APA’s bulletin, Psychiatric News. 5 July 1972. Meanwhile, the Canadian psychiatrist Prof. Norman Hirt of Vancouver is writing a book on Professor Lunts, whom he compares in some ways to the Nazis’ Dr. Mengele, and on the system which he operates. The book is based in part on interviews with people who have recently emigrated from the USSR, both with psychiatrists and with some of Lunts’s victims. See The Economist (London, 8 July 1972).”