We need to be a leader in human rights

… and the drug war makes that practically impossible.

Just saw another of many international stories of how drug users and addicts are treated: Pakistan drug rehab kept addicts in chains

Pakistani police say they have discovered drug addicts held in chains at an Islamic seminary in Karachi that offered rehabilitation services.

Police officer Akram Naeem said Tuesday that the parents of the 60 young men held at the seminary paid it to cure their children, or simply to take them off their hands.

Sound familiar? We had our own experience with torturing children in the name of fixing their drug problems with programs like Straight.

This is a continuing problem all over the world.

For years, Human Rights Watch has noted the problems of conditions in Vietnam drug detention centers.

We uncovered strong evidence that these facilities force detainees to produce goods for local Vietnamese companies, some of which supply multinational companies, under dangerous and degrading conditions for little or no compensation.

This past week, it seemed that maybe we were going to do something about this, with tweets from Rafael Lemaitre of the ONDCP (“ONDCP and NIDA Voice Concerns over #Vietnam’s Approach to Drug Treatment…”) and Kevin Sabet (“ONDCP/NIDA condemn inhumane drug treatment conditions in Vietnam. Good stuff…”), pointing to the White House blog: ONDCP and NIDA Voice Concerns over Vietnam’s Approach to Drug Treatment. The indication was that a letter had been sent.

Ah, a letter.

If a foreign country doesn’t jump in and fight the drug war to the satisfaction of the U.S., it can face decertification and severe sanctions.

But lock drug users up and use them for forced labor, and you get a letter. Maybe. As Transform asked “Have they made similar statements about the similar HRW reports re China and Cambodia?”

Here’s the real kicker, though.

I assumed when glancing at the blog that ONDCP and NIDA had sent a letter to Vietnam protesting their human rights abuses. Weak, perhaps, but at least something.

No, they sent a letter to Human Rights Watch.

In the blog post they noted that “The United States does not in any way condone the forced labor or inhumane conditions described in Human Rights Watch’s report on drug rehabilitation facilities in Vietnam.”

But the real reason for the letter to HRW was to defend themselves against accusations that Vietnam was justifying their actions based on NIDA principles.

NIDA’s Principles of Effective Drug Addiction Treatment includes: “Treatment does not need to be voluntary to be effective.” This statement is apparently being used as a justification by other countries.

So the bulk of the ONDCP/NIDA letter to HRW about the Vietnam situation was to explain that they really don’t mean it that way.

“We were also concerned to hear that the research-based guidelines enumerated in NIDA’s Principles of Effective Drug Addiction Treatment were being misinterpreted to justify practices that do not appear to be primarily focused on providing addicted individuals with the best available treatments. Far from providing a justification for violent of punitive coercion, the principle stating that “Treatment does not have to be voluntary to be effective” is based on evidence that treatment entered as a result of a criminal justice mandate to avoid imprisonment, or even within a criminal justice setting, can be successful.”

Why tell this to Human Rights Watch? Tell Vietnam to stop it!

You’re the government of the most powerful country on earth. You control the international drug war and have your own drug war offices in 62 countries.

If you really care about human rights, you could do something about it.

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10 Responses to We need to be a leader in human rights

  1. pt says:

    But if they actually did try to make them stop, then Vietnam may get the wrong idea in the opposite way, they may believe that the US has changed its policy to not enforcing drug laws at all. If they can misinterpret NIDA so badly its not a stretch to think that they might even legalize all drugs, in a misinterpretation of US dictum….. And ofcourse keeping addicts in chains is a faaaaaaar better misinterpretation than legalization…….. So ofcourse we will do nothing.

  2. warren says:

    Sabet and his cronies blow loads in their pants watching people withdraw.Modern day thumb screws.

  3. claygooding says:

    More smoke and mirrors,,,if they complain about other countries misdeeds on human rights,,we might have to answer questions about treatment of our own citizens that ignores civil rights.

  4. The drug war is only failing if you think its goals are what the government tells you they are.


  5. Duncan20903 says:

    Who says we don’t defend human rights? We’re certainly not letting lunatic Amish go around cutting of people’s beards or hair! Evidently cutting off an Amish man’s beard is the equivalent of cutting off his pecker! There seems to be some real trouble in the Amish paradise. Who says that Federal resources are squandered on stuff that should be left to local law enforcement? A beard for a beard!


    These people have obviously been milkin’ and plowin’ for much too long.

  6. Addycat says:

    This I think is one of the strongest arguments against the Drug War (and the War on Terror, for that matter). Not only does it undermine the rule of law at home, but it sets a dangerous example for other countries to torture and abuse their people, and to treat their drug addicts as less than human. It reminds me of the hikers kidnapped in Iran – after their release, the mainstream media reported on how they were tortured by Iran, but neglected to mention that the torturers pointed to Abu Ghraib to justify their treatment of Americans! Our neglect of civil rights and liberties is ultimately extremely damaging for our own safety!

  7. Here’s another reason not to force treatment: rehab doesn’t work! If we look at addicts like they can’t control themselves, then we’ve already started down the path of dehumanizing them.

    • Bryan S. says:

      I’d like to agree (for the most part) and possibly clarify that a tiny bit…
      More specifically the real problems w/ rehab are (IMO)
      1. They start with “Admit you’re powerless over your addiction…”, which is the part I think you’re referring to.

      (That’s a self-defeating starting point. It’s been successful for SOME people , (I can think of one) So, for some folks who’ve hit rock-bottom it may be wonderful(?) – But it’s far from an ideal start for recovery from anything.

      And then, they insist you:

      2. “Give yourself over to a higher power…” This 2nd part is arguably relevant in a spiritual context = that’s great if/when it works for some people.

      But, its not an all-encompassing solution, nor should it be an “absolute necessity” for people seeking sobriety or recovery from of ANY sort addiction.

      • I agree. What works for people is as individualized as the personalities involved. There is no treatment that works broadly. Individuals should be able to find what works for them; but anything that can be forced can also be abused by its purveyors.

        The topic of rehab is near and dear to me. See at http://www.drrez.com.

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