“I find this development frightening,” says Bjørn Engesland, Secretary General at the Norwegian Helsinki Committee to BarentsObserver.
The famous Murmansk blogger, Aleksandr Serebryanikov, better known as Blogger 51, is incriminated for violating paragraph 282 in the Russian criminal code and accused of ekstremism. This week he was told that he must go through a mental examination.
“If the authorities decides to go through with this examination, it shows how far Putin`s authoritarian regime is willing to go in order to silence the opposition,” says Engesland.
Psychiatry as pressure According to him, psychiatry was used frequently in Soviet Russia as a method of silencing human rights defenders and civic activists. This method of pressure is now emerging again. In 2013 at least four cases of political usage of psychiatry were noticed – in Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Russia.
“This practice will create fear and uncertainty within the civil society. Many people will think twice before they dare criticising the government,” says Engesland.
Clear message He believes Norway, as a neighbouring country, has a particularly important role to play.
“Since Putin became President again, restrictions on civil society in Russia have increased,” Engesland underlines.
“In bilateral negotiations with Russian counterparts, Norwegian government officials must stress the importance of respecting human rights,” he says. ”This should be high up on the new government`s agenda.”
According to Engesland the development on the other side of the border is completely contrary to the intentions of the Barents declaration.