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October 2003
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28 October 2003

Rakevich v. Russia – Russian legislation on mental health declared to be in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights

Ms. Rakevich's case is the seventh case against Russia since the Russian Federation ratified the European Convention on May 5, 1998. The significance of the case is in its challenge to the Russian Law on Psychiatric Treatment and components of the system of involuntary placement in psychiatric hospitals.

The circumstances of the case took place in Yekaterinburg, Russia on 25 September, 1999 when the applicant was involuntary detained in a psychiatric hospital. The reasons for her detention were that "she had remained awake throughout the night studying the Bible and weeping". Later the hospital authorities stated that there was psychiatric evidence that she was mentally ill.

On 5 November, 1999, after 39 days of detention, the Ordzhonekidzevskiy District Court of Yekaterinburg confirmed that the detention had been necessary as the applicant had suffered from an acute attack of paranoid schizophrenia. The applicant's representative and the applicant herself did not have any access to the report of the medical commission either before or after the hearing. Moreover the court hearing began in the absence of the applicant and her representative; they were requested to wait at the lobby while the court considered the medical documents. On 24 December, 1999, the Sverdlovsk Regional Court dismissed Ms. Rakevich's appeal against the decision of the District Court, confirming her detention was lawful and necessary. It also established, however, that the applicant's compulsory care was no longer necessary as the applicant had a job, was the single mother of a young son and had already spent a considerable period of time in the hospital and thus the court ordered not to prolong the applicant's detention. 

The application to the European Court of Human Rights was submitted on 8 June, 2000. 

The applicant claimed before the Court, inter alia, that:

1. There was a violation of Article 5(1) of the Convention since the law on Psychiatric Treatment was violated on count that the judicial decision approving her confinement was delivered 39 days after she was detained, instead of within the 5 day time limit as laid down in the law.
2. Ms. Rakevich challenged the absence of an independent right to initiate proceedings herself to test the lawfulness of her detention, which constitutes the cornerstone guarantee of Article 5(4) which is "Everyone who is deprived of his liberty by detention shall be entitled to take proceedings by which the lawfulness of his detention shall be decided speedily by a court". 

The Court found the following violations of Article 5:

1. The applicant's detention did not follow the procedure prescribed by law - that it took 39 days to approve the detention - therefore there has been a violation of Art 5(1). This decision will hopefully prompt the Russian authorities to change the practice of delayed judicial reviews of such cases.
2. The detainee lacked the independent right to take proceedings to test the lawfulness of her detention by a court. According to the Law on Psychiatric Treatment Section 33 (2) "An application for the involuntary placement of a person in a psychiatric hospital shall be filed by a representative of the hospital where the person is detained". So the Court found that the Law did not permit the applicant to apply to the court herself. This is a violation of Article 5(4) and should lead to a change in the Russian mental health law.

The Court also held that Russia should pay the applicant EUR 3000. 

The applicant was represented by a staff attorney with non-governmental organization SUTYAJNIK, Anna Demeneva (Yekaterinburg), advised by INTERIGHTS legal officers Borislav Petranov and Vesselina Vandova (London).

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Rakevich v Russia Judgment in Russian >>> in English >>>
All press-relises on the case Rakevich v. Russia (zip 58 kb) >>>
Admissibility Decision in Russian >>> in English >>>
Video and Audio Report from the Court Room >>>

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