CASE OF Y.S. v. RUSSIA (European Court of Human Rights) Application no. 28131/19

INTRODUCTION. The application concerns the applicant’s placement in a psychiatric facility for involuntary treatment. The applicant invokes Article 5 § 1 of the Convention.

THIRD SECTION
CASE OF Y.S. v. RUSSIA
(Application no. 28131/19)
JUDGMENT
STRASBOURG
30 March 2021

This judgment is final but it may be subject to editorial revision.

In the case of Y.S. v. Russia,

The European Court of Human Rights (Third Section), sitting as a Committee composed of:

Darian Pavli, President,
Dmitry Dedov,
Peeter Roosma, judges,
and Olga Chernishova, Deputy Section Registrar,

Having regard to:

the application (no. 28131/19) against the Russian Federation lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“the Convention”) by a Russian national, Ms Y.S. (“the applicant”), on 14 May 2019;

the decision to give notice to the Russian Government (“the Government”) of the complaint concerning the involuntary placement in a psychiatric facility for treatment and to declare inadmissible the remainder of the application;

the decision not to have the applicant’s name disclosed;

the parties’ observations;

Having deliberated in private on 9 March 2021,

Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:

INTRODUCTION

1. The application concerns the applicant’s placement in a psychiatric facility for involuntary treatment. The applicant invokes Article 5 § 1 of the Convention.

THE FACTS

2. The applicant was born in 1966 and lives in Megion, Khanty‑Mansiysk Region.

3. The Government were represented by Mr M. Galperin, the Representative of the Russian Federation at the European Court of Human Rights.

4. The facts of the case, as submitted by the parties, may be summarised as follows.

5. On 11 October 2017 the applicant was apprehended by the Rosgvardiya officers on the territory of a school in Megeon, Khanty‑Mansiysk Region and transferred to the psychoneurological hospital (“the Hospital”).

6. The admission report stated that the applicant had an acute mental disorder and that she was apprehended while screaming at the territory of a school, claiming herself to be children’s defender and alleging that three dogs had been killed on the school premises.

7. On 12 October 2017 the applicant was examined jointly by the commission of the psychiatrists. Their report stated that the applicant was suffering from an organic schizophrenic disorder of unidentifiable origin and a maniac paranoid syndrome. It stated that an involuntary in-patient treatment was necessary, since the applicant’s condition would aggravate in the absence of the psychiatric assistance. The applicant refused to be hospitalised.

8. On 13 October 2017 a medical counselling panel composed of the resident psychiatrists of the Hospital examined the applicant and diagnosed her with an organic schizophrenic disorder of unidentifiable origin and a maniac paranoid syndrome. The panel also found that the applicant’s behaviour had affective disorders, paranoid symptoms and that there was a risk of aggravation of her psychiatric condition in the absence of psychiatric assistance.

9. On the same day the Hospital applied for judicial authorisation of the applicant’s involuntary hospitalisation, since there was a risk of significant damage to her health owing to the deterioration or aggravation of her psychiatric condition in the absence of psychiatric assistance.

10. On 17 October 2017 the Meginsk Town Court of the Khanty‑Mansiysk Region authorised the applicant’s involuntary hospitalisation.

11. The applicant appealed arguing that the Town Court had failed to substantiate that her condition was severe and that she posed a danger to herself or others.

12. On 19 December 2017 the appeal was dismissed by the Khanty‑Mansiysk – Yugra Regional Court.

13. On 19 January 2018 the applicant was discharged from the Hospital after an improvement in her mental state.

RELEVANT LEGAL FRAMEWORK

14. The relevant provisions of the Russian legislation are reproduced in Zagidulina v. Russia, no. 11737/06, §§ 21-30, 2 May 2013.

THE LAW

I. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 5 § 1 OF THE CONVENTION

15. The applicant complained that her involuntary placement in a psychiatric facility had not been lawful within the meaning of Article 5 § 1 of the Convention which in the relevant part reads as follows:

“1. Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be deprived of his liberty save in the following cases and in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law:

(e) the lawful detention … of persons of unsound mind …”

A. Admissibility

16. The Court notes that this complaint is neither manifestly ill-founded nor inadmissible on any other grounds listed in Article 35 of the Convention. It must therefore be declared admissible.

B. Merits

17. The applicant maintained that her involuntary hospitalisation had been unlawful, she argued that the competent national authorities had had no reason to hospitalise her in a psychiatric facility.

18. The Government contested that argument and argued that the applicant’s placement in a psychiatric facility had been lawful, both from the standpoint of Article 5 § 1 (e) of the Convention and national law and supported by the requisite evidence.

19. The Court reiterates that individuals suffering from a mental illness constitute a particularly vulnerable group and that any interference with their rights must therefore be subject to a strict scrutiny. Only “very weighty reasons” can justify a restriction of their rights (see Alajos Kiss v. Hungary, no. 38832/06, § 42, 20 May 2010, and Zagidulina, cited above, § 52). In that regard the Court reiterates that the detention of an individual is such a serious measure that it is only justified where other, less severe measures have been considered and found to be insufficient to safeguard the individual or public interest (see Karamanof v. Greece, no. 46372/09, § 42, 26 July 2011).

20. In the present case, the parties did not dispute that the applicant’s involuntary placement in a psychiatric facility had entailed a deprivation of liberty.

21. The Court recalls its constant jurisprudence, first outlined in Winterwerp v. the Netherlands (24 October 1979, § 39, Series A no. 33), according to which three minimum conditions have to be satisfied for the “detention of a person of unsound mind” to be lawful within the meaning of Article 5 § 1 (e): except in emergency situations the individual concerned must be reliably shown to be of unsound mind – that is to say a true mental disorder must be established before a competent authority on the basis of objective medical evidence; the mental disorder must be of a kind or degree warranting compulsory confinement; and the validity of continued confinement must depend upon the persistence of such a disorder.

22. In the present case the medical professionals and the courts were satisfied that the applicant was suffering from an “acute mental disorder” – namely, an organic schizophrenic disorder of unidentifiable origin and a maniac paranoid syndrome. They arrived at this conclusion on the basis of the medical evidence and the applicant’s psychiatric assessments (see paragraphs 6-8 above). Accordingly, the applicant had been reliably shown to be of unsound mind.

23. However, the existence of a true mental disorder is not sufficient to warrant a person’s involuntary hospitalisation. The second Winterwerp criterion requires that the mental disorder must be of “a kind or degree” warranting compulsory confinement. In this regard the Court stresses that it is not its task to reassess various medical opinions, but rather to ascertain for itself whether the domestic courts, when taking the contested decision, had at their disposal sufficient evidence to justify the detention (see Herz v. Germany, no. 44672/98, § 51, 12 June 2003).

24. Turning to the present case the Court notes that the ground for the applicant’s involuntary hospitalisation was a risk of aggravation of her psychiatric condition in the absence of psychiatric assistance (paragraph 8 above). However, neither the available medical reports, nor the judicial decisions contain any explanation whatsoever of how the applicant’s mental state might have significantly deteriorated in the absence of involuntary inpatient treatment and why an out-patient treatment had not been an option.

25. Furthermore, while the above medical reports characterised the applicant as anxious, worried, untidy, emotional, and wordy, they had not stated that she posed any real danger to anyone or herself.

26. The foregoing considerations are sufficient to enable the Court to conclude that the Russian competent authorities had failed to demonstrate that the applicant’s mental disorder had been of a kind or degree warranting compulsory confinement (see also X v. Russia, no. 3150/15, §§ 43 and 44, 20 February 2018).

27. There has accordingly been a violation of Article 5 § 1 of the Convention.

II. APPLICATION OF ARTICLE 41 OF THE CONVENTION

28. Article 41 of the Convention provides:

“If the Court finds that there has been a violation of the Convention or the Protocols thereto, and if the internal law of the High Contracting Party concerned allows only partial reparation to be made, the Court shall, if necessary, afford just satisfaction to the injured party.”

29. The applicant did not submit any claim for just satisfaction. Accordingly, the Court considers that there is no call to award her any sum on that account.

FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT, UNANIMOUSLY,

1. Declares the application admissible;

2. Holds that there has been a violation of Article 5 § 1 of the Convention.

Done in English, and notified in writing on 30 March 2021, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.

Olga Chernishova                               Darian Pavli
Deputy Registrar                                   President

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