This year the International Conference on the Reduction of Drug Related Harms is taking place in Barcelona, May 11-15, supported by the Department of Health of Catalonia. On the first day there were satellite events on various issues, including harm reduction in prisons, gender sensitive services, suboxone, alcohol and harm reduction, HIV prevention in Asia and drug users' activism (our report from the INPUD congress is coming soon). Paul Hunt, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health made an excellent keynote speech addressing the multiple violations of the human rights of people who use drugs. For example ambulances refuse to treat overdosed people, investigators force suspects into unmedicated withdrawal to extract confessions, drug users are imprisoned and forced into treatment, governments ban publications on harm reduction, police breaks up peaceful demonstrations against drug laws and so on.
“This widespread, systemic abuse of human rights is especially shocking, because drug users include people who are the most vulnerable, most marginal in society,” said Hunt. “Despite the scale of the abuse, despite the vulnerability, there is no public outrage, no public outcry, no public inquiries, on the contrary: the long litany of abuse scarcely attracts disapproval. Sometimes it even receives some public support.”
According to Mr. Hunt, the promotion and protection of human rights should precede drug control objectives. He encouraged NGOs to use the procedures and possibilites provided by the independent rapporteur system. He alluded to his visit to Sweden, where he found inadequate access to harm reduction services and urged the government to scale up needle exchange and substition treatment (read the report of IHRA and the Swedish Drug User Union).
He called it an “inexcusable situation” that the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) focuses on the three international drug conventions “with scant regard for the international code of human rights that emerges from one of the Article 1 objectives of the United Nation’s charter.” He said the international drug control organizations operate in “parallel universes”, but there are some signs that human rights are slowly infiltrating the drug control system.
Posted by Peter Sarosi