(Moscow) – Russian authorities should immediately release the performance artist Petr Pavlensky from involuntary confinement in a psychiatric hospital, Human Rights Watch said today. The Russian authorities should protect his right to due process and unhindered access to legal counsel.
Pavlensky was arrested on November 9, 2015, after he poured gasoline on and set ablaze the front doors of Russia’s Federal Security Service’s (FSB) headquarters, which had previously housed the Soviet KGB. Photographs and videos of Pavlensky’s actions, which he said were an act of performance art called “A Threat,” quickly circulated in Russian and international media and social networks. On January 26, 2016, he was transferred from a pretrial detention facility to the Serbsky State Scientific Center for Social and Forensic Psychiatry to undergo a prolonged, involuntary psychiatric evaluation, his lawyer, Olga Dinze, told Human Rights Watch.
“Pavlensky’s forced psychiatric confinement is a sinister reminder of the Soviet legacy of punitive psychiatry, and the abuse of psychiatry to silence critics,” said Tanya Cooper, Europe and Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “It violates both his right not to be arbitrarily detained and his right to health.”