A Canadian psychiatrist accused of human rights abuses in apartheid South Africa for subjecting gay soldiers and conscientious objectors to electric shock “cures”, will stand trial in Calgary on Wednesday for allegedly sexually abusing male patients.
Aubrey Levin, known in South Africa as “Dr Shock” for his use of electroshock therapy, is charged with sexual assaults on 10 patients, mostly prisoners assigned by the Canadian justice system for treatment. On Tuesday, a jury ruled he was fit to stand trial after the defence claimed Levin, 72, was suffering from the early stages of dementia.
Levin was arrested only after a male patient secretly filmed him making sexual advances. Earlier complaints by others were ignored by the authorities or not believed. His licence to practice has been suspended and the Alberta justice department has reviewed scores of criminal convictions in which the psychiatrist was a prosecution witness.
One of Levin’s patients told CTV two years ago he endured abuse because he was afraid to protest.
“I didn’t want him to write anything negative about me. So I pretty much kept quiet through the whole ordeal and the next time I came forward I was going to bring a tape recorder and record everything he was going to say, just to protect myself,” the man said.
After his arrest, about 30 other patients came forward to accuse Levin of sexual abuse.
Levin’s arrest raised questions in Canada as to how he was allowed to become a citizen and permitted to practice at the University of Calgary’s Medical School even after he was named by South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) for “gross human rights abuses” during the apartheid era.
Levin was a colonel in the South African military and chief psychiatrist at 1 Military hospital in Pretoria in the 1970s and 80s, where he was in charge of a unit where electric shocks were administered to “cure” gay white conscripts. Levin also oversaw the use of electroshocks and powerful drugs against conscientious objectors refusing to fight for the apartheid army in Angola or suppress dissent in the black townships, who were held against their will and classified as “disturbed”.