After a six year campaign by Soviet dissidents and a growing number of psychiatrists in the West, the Prestigious World Psychiatric Association General Assembly voted Wednesday to condemn the alleged abuse of psychiatry for political purposes in the Soviet Union.
Despite a strong protest by the Soviet delegation that they were the victims of "unsubstantial slander," the international body adopted by a two vote margin a resolution condemning "The abuse of psychiatry for political purposes . . . in all countries in which [it occurs]," with particularly reference to "the extensive of psychiatry for political purpose in the U.S.S.R."
The Soviet also failed to beat back a resolution approving the establishment of a WPA committee to review allegations of psychiatric abuse by receiving personal testimony and engaging in-on-site inspections.
Speaking to reports immediately afterward, Soviet delgate Eduard A.Babayan, administrative chief for introduction of new medical measures and techniques for the U.S.S.R. Health Ministry, blamed the outcome of the condemnation vote on what he called a "nondemocractic ballot-counting system."
He added that Soviet psychiatrics have always welcome foreign colleagues to inspect mental clinics in the U.S.S.R. on private visits, but said the WPA resolution setting up an official body with the power to recomend "corrective action" reflected a "tendency to violate the rights of sovereign states."
The vote on condemnation yielded 19 national psychiatric societies for, and 33 against.
But each society vote was weighted according to the size of its membership. Thus larger voting blocs of Western psychistric societies overode the smaller voting blocs of the Soviet Union, its allies and some Third World countries.
It was this young system Babayan condemned as "nondemocractic."
In answer to a question Babayan said he and his colleagues would have to consult before deciding whether to withdraw from the prestigious organization. The Soviet Union joined the WPA 10 years ago and has been quite active in it, including hosting two symposia within the Soviet Union in recent years.
Dr Sydney Bloch, co-author of a book widely circulated at the conference entitled , "Psychiatrics Terror, How Soviet Psychiatry Is Used to Supress Dissent," said of the condemnation." At this point one must be satisfied that the world psychiatric community has recognized its moral responsibility."
Block said the close vote of approval "means there are quite a lot of people who feel either they can't trust the evidence or, as the Scandinavians said, that they must maintain dialogue with the Russians.
"We, too, want dialogue, but in our experience we find diplomatic language does not have any effect. The only thing that gets people released from hospitals and prisons is a strong campaign of protest."
During debate against condemnation resolution, Babayan said that no one at the congress had produced examination certificates of the dissidents in questions in disproving the Soviet findings of mental illness.
Bloch is a leader of an informal group of psychiatrists in the West who says it believes the Soviet Union has incarcerated 700 or more dissidents who have spoken out on political religious and nationalistic issues.
The drive to rebuke the Soviet began early in 1971, when Soviet political activist Vladimir Bukovsky sent to Western psychiatrists what he said were exact copies of case reports on several dissident confined in Soviet mental institutions.
Friends and relatives of the Dissenters had considered the subjects sane, said Bukovsky, yet commissions of Soviet forensic psychiatrists had found them mentally ill.
Bukovsky, who had been pronounced "nonresponsible" at the Serbsky Institute in Moscow for earlier dissident activities, was arrested, tried and sentenced to 12 years to prison in exile for his 1971 appeal to the West. He was released from the Soviet Union in December, 1976, and them emigrated.
Bukovsky circulated a new appeal to the Honolulu congress decrying the WPA's failure to take a stand on the political abuse issue at its last meeting in Mexico City in 1977.
The resolution of condemnation gathered momentum with the presence here of two Soviet emigres, psychiatrists Marina Voikhanskaya and mathematician-engineer Leonid Plyushch
The latter said he was arrested and confined to "the most horribly psychiatric prison in the Soviet Union" for writing political articles analyzing Soviet life.
Attending the conference were three Soviet delegates described by the emigres and others as leader inalleged psychiatric abuse. They were identifield as Andrew A. Snevhnecski, director of the psychiatry institute of the U.S.S.R. Medical Science Institute, Ruben A. Nadzharov and Georgiy V.Morozov.
Snevhnevski is considered by his peers at this convention as the most powerful influence in Soviet psychiatry today. He is held responsible by the dissidents for the policy of broadening the definition of Schizophrenia to include dissenting acts unacceptable to the Soviet state.