(video courtesy of Fergana.ru)
We the undersigned strongly urge the World Psychiatric Association to demand that the government of Uzbekistan immediately release Elena Urlaeva from forcible psychiatric detention, where she is being held in retaliation for, and in order to prevent her human rights activism.
Ms. Urlaeva has been researching, protesting and advocating for human rights in her country since 1999. Repeatedly over the decades, in 2001, 2005, 2012 and 2016 the state has subjected her to punitive compulsory psychiatric imprisonment via court order, even though she has been found to be of sound mind. On March 1, police arrested her as she prepared a public protest as well as for a meeting with visiting officials from the World Bank and International Labor Organization. She intended to present to them her first-hand documentation of human trafficking and state-organized forced labor in the cotton harvest. Police summoned an emergency psychiatric ambulance, which transported Ms. Urlaeva to the Tashkent city Psychiatric Hospital, where she remains as of this writing.
The abuse of psychiatry for political purposes in the Soviet Union remains a shameful blot on the history of the psychiatric profession. Though repudiated by some successor states in the early 1990s, the practice clearly persists in Uzbekistan. In keeping with the mission of the WPA to promote the highest possible ethical standards in psychiatric work, we beseech you to not only compel Ms. Urlaeva’s release, but to take the strongest available measures to censure Uzbekistan for its continued perversion of psychiatric medicine.