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Bringing justice to drug users

Apr 02, 2009

International Harm Reduction Development Programme has come out with a report: At What Cost? HIV and Human Rights Consequences of the Global “War on Drugs”. The document focuses on the condition of drug users and the prolonged violations of their rights in the name of drug control.

At What Cost? HIV and Human Rights Consequences of the Global “War on Drugs

Publisher: Open Society Institute

The book begins with a background to the special session of the general assembly that took place decades ago to address the issue of drug control. Convened under the motto “A Drug-free World: We Can Do It!”.

The nations pledged to achieve significant progress toward total elimination of the opium poppy, the coca bush, and the cannabis plant, and to take appropriate measures aimed at eliminating or reducing illicit demand for narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.

A decade after governments pledged to achieve a drug-free world there is little evidence that the supply or demand of illicit drugs has been reduced. Instead, aggressive drug control policies have led to increased incarceration for minor offences, human rights violations, and disease.

The report released on March 5 includes studies and testimonies reflecting conditions in over 30 countries. It provides four case studies that examine how policing practices directly impact the lives of people who use drugs.

The document presents a series of recommendations that help to align drug control efforts with health and human rights:

  • Train and sensitise the police on harm reduction and the human rights of drug users;
  • Sensitise the general public to decrease stigma and discrimination against people who use drugs;
  • Create partnerships between law enforcement agencies and the public health sector;
  • Ensure that the police exercise discretion in implementing drug-related laws/ policies; and
  • Introduce harm reduction services, and ensure treatment for people living with HIV in prisons.

One of the chapters focuses on South Asia, taking Manipur as case study where a combination of factors – the state being situated near a major center of opium production and also has a strong military and paramilitary presence – produce a situation where drug use is widespread, and responses to it are primarily punitive in nature.

“HIV prevention and care among IDUs in India, like elsewhere, is complicated by the presence of criminal laws,” says K.H. Jayanta Kumar.

NGOs working with drug users and organisations providing legal services report that corruption is widespread throughout the criminal justice system.

Source : Infochange
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